Ahmedabad: Donald Trump was in great form on the first day of his visit to his friend Narendra Modi’s country on Monday. At every opportunity—in his eve-of-visit tweets, and during his speech at the Motera Stadium—he never failed to mention his host, whose punishing work ethic he praised ad nauseum.
Taken to the Gandhi Ashram, it came time to write a nice message in the record book they have there. “To my great friend Prime Minister Modi,” he wrote. “Thank you for this wonderful visit.”
Wait, where’s Gandhi? Not long later, a lot of eyebrows were raised on Twitter that the American president made no mention of Mahatma Gandhi.
Inevitably, comparisons were made to Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, who too was taken to a Gandhi place of pilgrimage when he visited in 2010.
Obama visited Mani Bhavan, where Gandhi used to stay while in Mumbai. The then president wrote in the visitors’ book: “I am filled with hope and inspiration as I have the privilege to view this testament to Gandhi’s life. He is a hero not just to India but to the world.”
Five years later, in January 2015, after visiting Raj Ghat in Delhi, Obama wrote, “What Dr Martin Luther King Jr said then remains true today. The spirit of Gandhi is very much alive in India today. And it remains a great gift to the world. May we always live in the spirit of love and peace—among all people and nations.”
“The distinction cannot be more stark,” tweeted the Congress leader Manish Tewari.
A former Tripura MLA, Tapas Dey tweeted, “instead Mr. President @realDonaldTrump expressed his love to @narendramodi.”
Not all tweets were about Trump’s Gandhi gaffe. On Twitter user Martin Joseph (@martinjmsw1) noticed his handwriting.
“President Trump’s comments in the visitor book of Sabarmati Ashram. The letters must be either in uppercase or lowercase but he used randomly mixed capitalization in writing. Its known StudlyCaps. He must repeat his High school Grammar classes.”
So in an unwitting riposte, Trump was gifted a number of Gandhi memorabilia as a token of his visit to Ahmedabad. Here’s what Trump was given:
1. Three monkeys statuette
A marble replica of the ‘three wise monkeys’ sculpture gifted to the Father of the Nation by Japanese monk way back in 1933. Giving it to him, prime minister Narendra Modi took pains to explain to Trump what the “three wise monkeys” represented.
2. Gandhi’s engraved Talisman
A trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram gifted Gandhi’s engraved Talisman, which the Father of the Nation wrote in August 1947, urging people in public life to always recall the face of the poorest of the poor
The message of the Talisman is: “Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much, recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man/woman whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him/her.
“Will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then your self will melt away.”
3. Gandhi’s autobiography
A special edition of Gandhi’s autobiography detailing his journey to the essence of truth. It’s titled ‘The Story of My Experiments with Truth’.
4. A pencil sketch
A pencil drawing of a rare photograph of the Mahatma when he was coming out of 10, Downing Street. Encased in a frame, the exclusive pencil sketch is recreated from a rare studio photograph of Gandhi that was taken in London at the request of Lord Irwin in 1931.
5. A charkha
The presidential couple were charmed by Gandhi’s ‘charkha’, which is the central attraction of the Sabarmati Ashram. A replica of it was gifted to them by the Ashram. An ashram inmate explained to the visiting dignitaries how the charkha works.The couple were wonderstruck to be told that the thread woven on the charkha gets stronger with each spin of it.
6. Handspun khesh
The Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust gifted Trump and Melania three handspun khesh (a form of fabric) made up of khadi that was inspired by a sari of Gandhi’s wife Kasturba Gandhi.
7. A khadi booklet
It contains 150 quotes by the Mahatma