Obama's India visit: 4 weird facts
Obama's much-scrutinized trip to South Asia has inspired some outlandish rumors — but these four details are both strange and true
Wild claims, initiated by the Indian press and spread by careless bloggers, have been circulating about President Obama's upcoming three-day visit to India. (Watch how students are preparing for Obama's visit.) You may have heard that Obama, guarded by 34 warships, will be renting out the entire 570-room Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai with an entourage of 3,000, and will somehow be spending $200 million tax-payer dollars a day. ("Note to self: Don't trust Indian media," says Hot Air's Allahpundit.) But just because those stories are bogus doesn't mean that every eyebrow-raising report is false. Here are four true tales:
1. Indian authorities are removing all the coconuts from one site
One of Obama's Mumbai stops is the city's Gandhi museum, Mani Bhavan, where the icon of nonviolence stayed during his struggle against the British. Museum leaders have asked the city to strip the surrounding coconut trees to lessen the risks that a falling coconut might injure or kill the president (apparently the fate of several Indians each year). "Why take a chance?" says Mani Bhavan executive secretary Meghshyam Ajgaonkar. Asked about the coconut cull, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs replied, "How am I supposed to take that seriously?"
2. Monkey-catchers will combat the "monkey menace"
In New Delhi, Obama's security detail will include both anti-terrorism commandos and monkey catchers. The red-bottomed bhandar monkeys who live in the Ridge forest near Obama's hotel "regularly overrun government office compounds, bite through expensive computer cables, attack people carrying food, and cause general mayhem," reports The Daily Telegraph. Despite the near-constant "monkey menace," the city usually leaves the primates alone, since they represent the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman.
3. Bollywood-style Obama memorabilia is selling out
Obama's popularity at home may be slipping, but his face is still moving thousands of trinkets in India. While Obama T-shirts are selling "like hot cakes," says The Economic Times, a series of "Obama chairs, wallets, and handbags" — all hand-painted by ex-Bollywood poster artists and distributed by a company called Indian Hippy — are also flying off the racks. True enthusiasts can order a Indian Hippy custom-portrait depicting themselves alongside Obama.
4. Obama will debut the teleprompter in India's parliament
When the president addresses India's Parliament, he will reportedly be the first person in the building's history to use a teleprompter. "Used to the machine-gun delivery of Indian politicians who are never at a loss for words, officials here were a bit perplexed when the U.S. embassy broached the topic," says The Calcutta Telegraph. "We assumed that Obama, being such a brilliant orator, delivers speeches extempore," said one official. Another speculated that the president is "probably" asking for electronic help "to avoid Bushisms."