Barack Obama got a hug from wife Michelle and a high-five from a Calcutta schoolgirl on Wednesday morning.
So what if Anusuya Mitra had only a life-size cut-out of the just re-elected US President to slap palms with? An inanimate piece of cardboard in a long coat seemed to excite her and the rest of the 100-odd schoolchildren gathered at the American Center more than any of Bengal's leaders can ever aspire to do.
After all, the Class XII student of commerce at Modern High is one among many of Bengal's BYTs (bright young things, silly!) who are eyeing an opportunity to leave for anywhere between Mumbai and Manhattan for higher studies and then their first jobs. "Youngsters will continue to leave the state until there are enough opportunities for them. Here, we have just a few good colleges," she said.
Anusuya's schoolmate Spriha Dhanuka, waiting eagerly for America's first twice-elected Black President to appear on the giant screen in the Lincoln Room, said she was there because the US was probably where her future lay. "Many of us plan to go to colleges in the US next year; so we need to follow what policies he intends framing for foreign students," she said.
Ishika Seal from La Martiniere, who will be appearing for SAT in May, was already better informed about American policy than about Mamata Banerjee's land policy. "Obama's policies are liberal, especially for foreign students," she said.
When Obama promised jobs in his post-victory speech, the students from the two La Martiniere schools, Modern High, St. John's Diocesan, Shri Shikshayatan, Calcutta International, South City International, The Heritage School, Pratt Memorial and Loreto College cheered like they had voted for the Democrat.
The enthusiastic schoolchildren had, in fact, participated in a mock presidential election with consul-general Dean Thompson declaring the verdict. At 38A Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Obama had defeated challenger Mitt Romney by a far handsomer margin than he did in the real battle many, many miles away.
The verdict from Calcutta's GenX in the Lincoln Room on Tuesday morning: Yes to Obama staying on in the White House and, sadly, No to them staying on in Bengal.
As Spriha of Modern High put it: "With job opportunities shrinking further, we should move out now and perhaps come back to improve Bengal."
But what if Barack Obama were made the chief minister of Bengal? "He would never accept the job," shot back Modern High student Shivani Agarwal.
Something tells us she is right.