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Tears & cheers for President

Rajkeswur Purryag was emotional on Sunday, like anyone who finds his roots in a nondescript village in faraway land. But he is no ordinary man.

As President of Mauritius, he travelled all the way from Port Louis to Patna to complete the circle of his life — to land at a village from where the journey of his forefathers started to the island nation.

Main apne pardada ki dharti par akar bhawuk hun (I am filled with emotion on reaching the land of my forefathers),” he said in Hindi as he broke down in tears in front of 10,000-odd people in Wajidpur.

Wajidpur, 35km south of the state capital in Punpun block, decked itself up to welcome the Mauritian President, born in 1947, the year India got Independence. It was like festive mood in the village having the population of 3,500. However, people reached to see him from neighbouring villages like Kalyanchak, Chanuchak, Basiyawara, Sultanchak and Shiekhpura.

Remembering his forefathers, Purryag, accompanied by his wife Anita, said: “I greet the soil of Wajidpur, I greet the soil of Bihar where my forefathers lived 150 years ago. Our forefathers were lured by the British to go to Mauritius for a better life where they could virtually lay their hands on gold mines. However, they found only stones and boulders when they reached Mauritius. There was abject poverty and nothing much to eat. They also struggled a lot to make their own identities. They used to live in huts after leaving Bihar. Our forefathers provided good education to their children for success in life and since then, successive governments in Mauritius had given stress on educational infrastructure. But India and Bihar were always in their heart.”

Village women, who prepared kheer, puri, mixed vegetables apart from dahi and chura for the President, sang a local song o welcome their new-found guest: “Aaj meti kuttiya mein ram padhare and nimiya ke darhi maiya”.

His distant family members, who had been waiting for him since the last 15 days, were simply overjoyed watching him speak on a makeshift dais. As the President reminisced his ancestors from Bihar, his relatives were seen listening to Purryag in rapt attention. Purryag’s distant nephews Manesh Mahto Noniya (60) and Ganesh Mahto Noniya (50) were looking happy as they got an opportunity to touch the feet of the President.

“We are unable to express our feelings in words and it is the happiest moment of our life. We never thought that our family members are acquiring such a high post in foreign country,” said Ganesh.

They gifted him a white dhoti, red sari for his wife Anita and a bouquet made up from paddy. However, they did not get the opportunity to offer him food, which they have prepared for him. The female members of the family had made nine akshat (colourful rice) with red, purple, yellow, green and orange.

Ram Dhani Singh, 90, looked very excited and said: “I am going to the field where mahamahim is coming. This is for the first time, I will see a President of any country.”

The complete village was decked up to welcome him, new roads were constructed, all the houses of Wajidpur village were painted in white. Even the only primary school, Rajkiya Prakshik Vidyalaya, was kept open on Sunday and children found waving the Tricolour when he entered the village.

Purryag also thanked chief minister Nitish Kumar for helping him find the roots of his ancestors. “I am thankful to Nitish Kumar who traced my family. I came to Bihar 25 years ago in search of my family members but returned empty-handed. Now, I take this opportunity to thank him for making it possible. I would also like to say that since the time Bihar has come in the hand of Nitish, it is developing in a fast pace. The success story of Bihar is being talked not only in India but also abroad,” said Purryag.

Nitish said: “There is something special about Bihar’s soil. We have an enriching history and very soon we will regain the lost glory.”

He made three announcements after Purryag’s name: a high school, a pond and the cemented stage on which he was addressing. Both the leaders laid foundation stones of the school with the help of a remote control device.

Three other Mauritius ministers were also accompanying the President. Local MLA and food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak, water resources minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and legislative Assembly speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary were also present.