Nov. 14 treat: Meet the President

Siliguri, Nov. 18: Vaishnavi Shukla of Class III took her first flight of her life on November 13, and guess where she landed ' at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The student of Bright Academy of Siliguri could not believe her luck. "It was my first flight and that too to meet the President. I had a great time touring Rashtrapati Bhavan," the eight-year-old chirped.

Six children of this school spent Children's Day with President Pranab Mukherjee, a day Aishwarya Srivastav described as "fun-filled".

The six, aged between eight and 10 years, were probably the first to represent a school from the region at the programme at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Sandeep Ghosal, the director of the school at Punjabi Para here, had applied to the President's secretariat more than a month ago seeking permission to send children from the school to meet the President.

"I was aware that the President meets students from different schools across the country on November 14 every year. This year, I decided to take a chance and applied to the President's secretariat," he said.

"On Friday (November 9), I got a call from them (the President's secretariat) asking us to be present at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Children's Day along with eight students and three teachers. Although it was at a very short notice, we called up the parents of all the students. The guardians of these six students agreed to send their children to meet the President," Ghosal said.

The school that has 400 students was among 35 institutions from across the country that were asked to send children to meet the President. The eight-year old institution has classes from preparatory level to Class V.

Ayushman Agarwal, Aastha Upadhyay, Samir Roy and Kushagra Kejriwal were also among the fortunate six.

"In all probability, we are the first school from north Bengal to have got a chance to meet the President of India on Children's Day. He is the first President from our state and was happy to learn that we are from Siliguri," Ghosal added.

Ghosal, faculty member Tanmay Das and Ratanlal Jain, the director of the institution's branch at Khalpara near here, accompanied the children.

The team took a Delhi-bound flight from Bagdogra on Tuesday.

According to Ghosal, the trip was sponsored by the school and they stayed at a guest house near the airport.

The next day the six students attended a 45-minute programme at Rashtrapati Bhavan that started at 12.30pm.

During the programme the President met around 350 students and interacted with them. After the programme, the children were treated to high tea and taken on a tour of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

According to nine-year old Aishwarya, it was the most "fun-filled" Children's Day she had ever celebrated. She said she presented a bouquet to the President and was taken on a tour of the famous Mughal Gardens.

"It was nice to meet the President and present a bouquet to him. It was a fun-filled Children's Day. We got to tour the Rastrapati Bhavan. I liked the rose garden at the Mughal Gardens a lot," said the Class IV student.

The children also presented a book to the President.

Eight-year-old Ayushman Agarwal, a Class II student, said: "We clicked photographs sitting next to him. The President shook hands with all of us and wished us Happy Children's Day. I was in awe of the uniformed men who took us on the tour of Rashtrapati Bhavan."

The children were also taken around the Durbar Hall, Ashoka Hall and galleries.

The group flew back to Bagdogra on Friday.

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