Of Chandni Chowk, ‘Prime Minister Brendon McCullum’ and Kochi

Venkat Raman – 
venkat@indiannewslink.co.nz

For many of us travelling with Prime Minister John Key on his second official visit to India from October 25 to October 27, 2016, the cancellation of the first phase to Mumbai was a huge disappointment.

Hundreds of people in Mumbai who were eager to meet Mr Key and his business delegation also missed the opportunity.

However, our visit to New Delhi was eventful, exciting and exhausting.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, meetings with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, other ministers, government officials and the business community more than compensated for the loss of the ‘Mumbai leg.’

Rashtrapati Bhavan

The ceremonial reception accorded to Mr Key at Rashtrapati Bhavan forecourt was spectacular and undoubtedly one of the best in the world. Soldiers on feet and horseback greeted him and presented him with the Guard of Honour. This was a sight that we missed during his earlier visit on June 28, 2011 due to poor weather.

We missed visiting the 215-year-old Shree Siddhi Vinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, where a special Pooja had been arranged for John and Bronagh Key and his delegation but we had the good fortune of visiting the places of worship of Muslim and Sikh communities in Old Delhi.

Jama Masjid

Masjid-i-Jahan Juma, popularly known as Jama Masjid in Chandni Chowk is among the oldest places of Muslim worship in India. Constructed under the direction of Emperor Shah Jahan (who also built the Taj Mahal) in 1626, it is also one of the largest Mosques in the world.

The Mosque has three great gates, four towers and two 40 m high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble. Its courtyard can accommodate up to 25,000 people with 899 black borders marked for worshippers.

Sis Ganj Sahib Gurdwara

Sis Ganj Sahib Gurdwara in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, is one of the oldest places of Sikh Worship. Established in 1783 by Baba Bagel Singh to commemorate the martyrdom of Ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur who was beheaded on the orders of the Mughal emperor, the ‘ruthless’ Aurangzeb on November 11, 1675 for refusing to convert to Islam.

PM Brendon McCullum

If India’s Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma is known for controversies, he is also known for embarrassing people around him. And so it was at the Tourism Conference at Hyatt Regency on October 27 when he repeatedly addressed Brendon McCullum (the former Black Caps Captain was travelling with us) as ‘Honourable Prime Minister of New Zealand.’

How a federal minister would not have known the name of the visiting Prime Minister of New Zealand and that of his ministerial counterpart (Mr Key also holds the Tourism portfolio) is still puzzling.

Mahesh Sharma turned out to be the joke of the day.

Kochi International Airport

The round-off to the trip was at the hugely impressive Kochi International Airport, stated to be the first Public-Private Partnership international airport in India, due to be opened next month.

Mr Key was impressed (so were we) by the automated baggage handling with integrated inline Explosive Detection System (valued at US$ 22 million), installed by ‘Glidepath,’ a New Zealand company.

He was also impressed by the getup of the airport that included a replica of a parade of elephants decorated for the annual ‘Pooram’ festival in Thrissur (Trichur), the Cultural Capital of Kerala.

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