Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, November 06, 2010

The Star of India

In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire's period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their fourteenth child, Gauhara Begum. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632, one year after her death. The court chronicles of Shah Jahan's grief illustrate the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1648 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:

Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.

The total cost has been estimated to be about 32 million Rupees during the years 1632-1653. Converting that to today's American dollars gives the Taj Mahal a cost in modern American dollars of $1,062,834,098.

During Obama’s 10-day trip to the Orient – including India, Indonesia, China, South Korea, and Japan – he will be accompanied by majority of the White House staff, taking up all 800 hundred rooms of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, with the overflow staying at the Hyatt. They will be equipped with a complete communications set-up and the nuclear button, just in case the Taj’s concierge can’t locate one for him.

He will be protected by a fleet of 34 warships, including an aircraft carrier, which will patrol the sea lanes off the Mumbai coast during his two-day stay there beginning Saturday. The measure has been taken as Mumbai attack in 2008 took place from the sea on the very hotel in which he will be staying.

Two jets, armed with advanced communication and security systems, and a fleet of over 40 cars will be part of Obama's convoy.

The President will have a security ring of American elite Secret Service, which are tasked to guard the President, along with National Security Guards (NSG) and personnel from central paramilitary forces and local police in Mumbai and Delhi. Similar arrangements will be in place in Delhi, with Air Force One to be kept in all readiness throughout Obama's stay here from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning.

The Maurya Hotel in Delhi has already been swarmed by American security personnel and protective measures have been put in place. Security drills have already been carried out at the hotel as well as Rajghat, where he will visit.

Sources said 13 heavy-lift aircraft with high-tech equipment, three helicopters and 500 U.S. security personnel have arrived in India ahead of Obama's visit. The U.S. security has also brought interception and obstruction device, sniffer dogs, rescue equipment.

Apart from Obama's Air Force One, a few private luxury jets carrying top American corporate leaders, who are part of Obama's entourage, are also expected to accompany him. All high-rise buildings in the vicinity of Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel and Delhi's Maurya Sheraton hotel, where the US President will stay, are being sanitized and security personnel will be positioned on rooftops to prevent any air-borne attack.

The Ridge area - opposite Delhi's Maurya Sheraton hotel - has been illuminated by floodlights as part of the heightened security drill. The Home Ministry has already issued an alert for Mumbai and Delhi asking authorities to take extra precautions during Obama's visit as well as on Diwali (The Festival of Lights) on Friday.

A top official of the Maharashtra Government privy to the arrangements for the high-profile visit has reckoned that a whopping $200 million per day will be spent by various teams coming from America in connection with Obama's two-day stay in the city.

White House officials have dismissed the claim made of $200 million per day as “wildly inflated.” The official estimate is $2 million per day. That makes us feel oh so much better.

In one final security measure, all coconuts around Mumbai's Gandhi museum, are being removed. Obama, still smarting from heavy losses in the midterm elections, has already been hit on the head by political reality. If it still hasn’t gotten through to him, a conk on the head by a stray coconut might help.

If he and the missus visit the actual Taj Mahal will all the sins of Obamacare, the Stimulus, and financial reform, and the wasting of $20 million in taxpayer money on this trip, to visit countries to which our jobs have emigrated (one of the Indian newspapers shows a photo of the welcome mat literally being laid out for him), be washed away?

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