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Will Obama dampen Mumbai’s Diwali?

It was a surprise Diwali at the White House last year as Barack Obama became the first US president to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Nov 04, 2010, 12.47 AM IST|Original: Nov 04, 2010, 12.47 AM IST
It was a surprise Diwali at the White House last year as Barack Obama became the first US president to celebrate the Festival of Lights. But his visit to Mumbai this weekend, ironically enough, might dampen the lively spirit and unbridled celebration that’s so characteristic of the Maximum City. Reason: security firewall that the Mumbai Police is planning to build for the American president who arrives on Saturday morning.

Marine Drive and the Gateway of India will be out of bounds for thousands of revelers who flock to these hotspots and paint the skies on the shoreline with brilliant hues of light and a joyful cacophony of thunderous explosions. The utterly chaotic, yet spectacular, show that flows uninterrupted well into the wee hours of the next morning will be missing in action.

“Bursting crackers on Marine Drive to Nariman Point and at the Gateway of India will not be allowed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” said officers at the Marine Drive and Colaba police stations. “This will help us in implementing security measures.”

And it’s not just the revelers who will be disappointed. Hundreds of shops on the bustling Fashion Street in south Mumbai have been ordered to pull down their shutters on the day of president’s visit. The closure over the weekend is likely to see them taking a hit of more than Rs 26 crore.

“This is a weekend after Diwali and we were looking forward to frentic buying by consumers. It’s sad that we will have to shut down,” says Mohammed Jehangir, one of the shop owners. The last time that these shops were asked to shut due to arrival of some foreign dignitary was during the visit of former US president Bill Clinton.

“Diwali shopping will be affected,” feels Ashok Patel, president of Fort Merchants Association that has 600 members. “We are expecting over a 25% fall in sales due to the traffic diversions.”

South Mumbai residents too will have to stay at their homes during the Diwali weekend. “Due to traffic restrictions, we won’t be able to meet our relatives, which we usually do over the Diwali weekend,” says Archana Mehta, a resident of Marine Drive.

But bad news for many is good for some. 90% of the Taj’s 1,400 staff will get a rare Diwali off as US president’s security team has mandated that only 10% of the staff selected by them would be allowed to work.

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