US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tried their hand at spinning the charkha at Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Monday, shortly after arriving for their first official visit to India. The President, the First Lady and Prime Minister Narendra Modi toured the Ashram associated with Gandhi’s freedom struggle and self-reliance and spent about 15 minutes on the premises.
According to Kartikeya Sarabhai, trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, the visitors got a sense of “peace” after visiting the Ashram where Gandhi had lived between 1917 and 1930. “The President and his wife said that the place gave them a sense of peace. They saw Hriday Kunj, the humble abode of Gandhiji. Tried their hand at spinning the Charkha. During my interaction with the President we spoke about the Ashram and he and the First Lady really liked it very much,” Sarabhai said.
President Trump landed at the Sadar Vallabhbhai Patel airport in Ahmedabad at around 11:40 am following which he was given the guard of honour and welcomed with a traditional Gujarati ceremony.
In the message book at the Ashram, President Trump wrote, “To my great friend Prime Minister Modi – Thank you for this wonderful visit.” It was also signed by Melania Trump.
Sarabhai said that there were multiple gifts and souvenirs given to the President including Gandhiji’s three monkeys, Gandhi’s autobiography, a sketch and a picture taken by Nandlal Bose. “Gandhiji’s three monkeys were gifted by the Government of India. While from the Ashram, we gifted a copy of the Mahatma’s autobiography, a small charkha, Bapu’s talisman and a framed pencil drawing of Mahatma Gandhi,” Sarabhai said.
Lata Parmar, communicator at the Ashram, recalled her interaction with the Trumps and said, “The president was amazed at how the Charkha functioned. I was called to help him spin it. He was amazed how the thread did not break. He also joked that if he held it, the thread would break.”
Outside the Ashram, scores of people lined up behind the barricades to greet PM Modi and President Trump. They cheered loudly as the Air Force One touched down at the city airport. Chants cheering Prime Minister Modi were heard intermittently.