Students from select schools in Lucknow boarded the Vande Bharat train on Friday from Gorakphur to the state capital and claimed to have been floored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma.
Though the PM’s arrival at the Gorakhpur station (from where he flagged off the train’s inaugural run) entailed a more than two hour wait, the 36 chosen students said that their fatigue vanished as soon as he entered coach C-1 in which the children were.
Narendra Modi’s first question was about how long the children had been made to wait and whether they had been well cared for and fed during the time.
Bhumika Sarkar, a student of class 12 of Loyola International School recalled, “My legs and hands were shivering, I could not believe what had just happened. Was it really true? Had I just spoken to the PM? Something that I had dreamt of but knew could never happened..”.
Sarkar was asked by the PM if she had ever had the opportunity to meet so many people at one go and if she had made any friends. His second question was how many of those new friends would go the distance with her. She was one of the lucky few who the PM chose to speak to.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was accompanying the PM, chipped in to ask Sarkar if she herself had made the poster (on Clean India, Green India) that she had carried with her to show to the PM. “I could barely manage to nod”, she said.
Eight students from Loyola International School had been selected to be on board the train in the inaugural journey and they were headed by their principal, Shruti Singh.
Vaishnavi Awasthi, a student of class 9 from Bal Vidya Mandir, had a poster which had former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poem ‘Aaj Sindhu mein jwar utha hai’ written on it. Modi asked if she knew the poem by-heart and smiled when she said 'yes'. He then also asked her if she herself had an interest in writing.
Priyanshi Sonkar, a student of class 9 At Loyola International said, “I was awestruck by his presence. It was a spiritual experience. He asked us to practice yoga daily and pay attention to sports. He was so humble and friendly”. Sonkar’s most amazing moment however was when the PM went through the essay on ‘Swacch Bharat, Swasth Bharat’ that she had written and complimented her.
Sonkar’s classmate, Vidhushi Mehrotra said that she had “mentally rehearsed many times how she would respond to the PM”.
“I was so proud of this once in a lifetime opportunity. And when the PM praised my poster on Swacch Bharat, Swasth Bharat; despite all my preparation, I was speechless. I shall never forget the day”.
Though the delays caused by the weather meant the students—who had been sent on a special train to Gorakhpur to board the Vande Bharat—got back to Lucknow past 11 pm, there was scarcely a trace of fatigue, but just an overwhelming excitement. And an eagerness to share their experiences.
Their principal, Singh said that though she was not politically inclined, she was amazed by the “strong aura” that the PM exuded.
“Just by being in his presence, I felt that some of his popularity and charisma rubbed off on me. It was electrifying. This is perhaps what being a strong leader is all about”, she said.