Mani Bhavan: Where Obama will stop on Saturday

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Mumbai:  On any other day Mani Bhavan leads a quiet existence in the by lanes of Gamdevi in South Mumbai. The two-storeyed structure on Laburnum road is not on every tourist's itinerary. Only the well-researched and curious visitors usually find their way here.

But Thursday turned out to be 'not-an-average' day.

There was a last minute scramble of tourists outside Mani Bhavan, Mahatma Gandhi's home in Mumbai that is among the first stops on President Obama's maiden trip to the city.

Scramble, because Mani Bhavan will be shut from Thursday afternoon till Saturday evening, till the President and his entourage have left. Regulars will tell you that, except for a few days of pest control every year, Mani Bhavan is always open to visitors through the year. Mani Bhavan has made this rare exception.

Amid the last minute preparations, Mani Bhavan now has a special 'shamiana' being put up for the American President's visit. In fact, the municipal corporation has plucked away all the coconuts from the trees in the area, just to avoid any mishaps.

Meanwhile, security agencies, including Mumbai's police commissioner Sanjeev Dayal, took stock of the arrangements - reason why at least three White House officials were left waiting outside the gate for close to an hour. It was only when he came there that they were allowed to enter.

Mahatma Gandhi has been a great inspiration for President Obama. "In my life, I have always looked to Mahatma as an inspiration because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things" - wrote Obama in a newspaper before becoming President.

In fact, during a school interaction in the US, Barack Obama had said that if it were possible, he would have loved to have dinner with Mahatma Gandhi.

The Executive Secretary of the Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Meghshyam Asgaonkar told NDTV, "Mahatma Gandhi launched the satyagraha from here in 1919 and the civil disobedience movement in 1932. In many ways Mani Bhavan played a crucial role in moulding the course of history."

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will come here on Saturday afternoon after meeting with the relatives and victims of 26/11 at the Taj Hotel.

They will visit the library and the room where Mahatma Gandhi stayed between 1917 and 1934.

The trust that runs Mani Bhavan will also gift President Obama literature on the Mahatma.

It's well known that Mahatma Gandhi's portrait hangs in Barack Obama's Senate office. It's also well known that Mahatma Gandhi stayed at Mani Bhavan. But few may know that President Obama's other inspiration- Martin Luther King - also stayed at Mani Bhavan for two days in 1959. So when Obama comes here, he will get the chance to retrace the steps of not just one, but both his heroes.


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