It’s official. Barack Obama has entered the world of Mumbai society chatter. The President of the United States’ visit to the city is  a subject of conversation at every party and the rumours about it have now officially superseded the whispers about Mukesh Ambani’s cosy little 27-storeyed home, Antilla. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve heard during the course of one evening.

1. Colaba has been shut down. (As of November 5th, it untrue that the entire neighbourhood has been shut down although some roads are going to be closed off.)

2. There’s a clampdown on those allowed on Marine Drive, particularly to light fireworks on Diwali night (i.e. tonight). This is to ensure that the sound of bursting crackers isn’t mistaken for a terrorist attack. (I went past Marine Drive tonight. There were literally hundreds of people calmly sitting around and bursting firecrackers. The crowd was less than usual, yes, but at midnight, there was a traffic jam at Marine Drive because of firecracker-bursters. This, apparently, is a clampdown.)

3. All of the Taj Palace has been booked by the US government. (Who knows?)

4. Only senior staff of the Taj are allowed in the hotel and low-rung employees have been given leave since last week. Presumably the CIA will be doing their jobs. (Who knows?)

5. U.S. Army flights have been swarming into Mumbai airport for the past week. (From one who claims to be an eyewitness. This explains why my mum’s flight was sitting around near the runway for 2 hours.)

6. The President’s security has “swept Marine Drive clean”. They all look like guys auditioning for “Men In Black“. (From two who claim to be eyewitnesses. The ladies in question also reported that they’re “totally hot. Something about men in black suits, ya.”)

7. All those who will meet President Obama have to carry and show their PAN cards. (Because the criterion for entering a presidential dinner is the same as what a publication demands of freelance writers: proof that the person in question is a tax paying citizen.)

8. As of November 5th, President Obama is in Taj Palace. (UPDATE: not unless all the footage being aired on November 6th was a lie.)

9. President Obama will not be staying at the Taj Palace. The hotel’s been booked as a red herring. (Who knows?)

10. The President’s security includes 34 warships. His entourage is made up of 3,000 people. (When I expressed my disbelief at this, I was told that back in the day, people had disbelieved that the astronauts had landed on the moon.)

11. The cost of the President’s trip per day is more than what the war in Afghanistan costs the American tax payer (the Afghanistan campaign totals about $190 million per day apparently). (Too rubbishy for me to come up with a snarky comment.)

12. President Obama has/will come to the Taj from the airport by helicopter. (No presidential motorcade stuck in snarls of Mumbai traffic? And we call this a democracy? Ha!)

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