New Delhi, Jan 5 :
After Secretary of State John Kerry and Ambassador Nancy Powell, it was the turn of a celebrated school choir from the US to express regret at the ugly turn of events that led to the humiliation of an Indian diplomat, an incident that caused a major downturn in Indo-US ties at the end of last year.
The Keystone State Boychoir from Philadelphia, that gave a two-hour concert to a packed auditorium at the India International Centre Saturday evening, and got a standing ovation at the end, said they had heard about the diplomatic fiasco and were “deeply sorry” for whatever had happened.
“We cherish the friendship of the people of India and we are deeply sorry for what has happened,” said Steven M. Fisher, the assistant director of the Boychoir that regaled the audience with a repertoire of Christmas carols, American folk and Indian hymns that were the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi. The visit of the all-boys’s choir to India was facilitated by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and his greatgrandson Tushar Gandhi.
The choir group was advised that this was not the right time to visit India because of heightened anti-American sentiments inflamed by the diplomat row that was caused by the mistreatment and humiliation of Devyani Khobragade, a young Indian diplomat who worked at the Indian consulate in New York, over alleged visa fraud and violation of workers’ rights following alleged exploitation of her Indian housemaid.
“But we found our reception in India incredibly warm,” said Fisher.
He said the group was even advised by American embassy officials not to sing American songs, but found no hostility among Indian audiences during their performances in New Delhi and Gurgaon and also with the children of the Salaam Balak Trust that works for the welfare and development of street children.
The choir also visited and sang at the Gandhi Centre at Delhi University, at the footsteps of the Jama Masjid and visited Gandhi Smriti, the site where Gandhi was assassinated Jan 30, 1948, where they sang Zikr, an Islamic chant, and Ramkali, based on a Hindu raga.
The Boychoir has performed in all seven continents, including in the Antarctica.