The lethargic Community Health Center in Shadnagar (who? where? precisely!) can best be described as being in self-doubt for the most part of its existence - it can't be much fun having to spend all your life in a village that barely makes it to the mandal map. But 14th November would change all that. As proof perhaps that sheer perseverance pays, the 30-year-old stodgy structure finally had its day. The richest man in the world came a' visiting.
For all the locals, it was probably the most exciting day they'd have in their sleepy hamlet in a lifetime. The cops were teeming all over the place right since the morning thanks to a state guest being chaperoned by the state himself (guess who the official guide was?), the sirens were screaming, and more men in khaki lurked in the shadows and atop buildings than probably the population of this time-warp hit place. Hundreds of villagers and passersby stood gawking for the anytime-now spectacle, and there was enough hype to make celebrities of the men and women who phenyled the floors of the place.
When the man himself finally walked in at noon, however, it was so shorn of hoopla, it was almost an anti-climax. Sheesh, how can $47bn look so human? A genial smile at the army of press corps had the photographers begging the CM for more, and after Bill Gates and the team of the Gates Foundation returned from inside the health center where they met patients and checked out the facilities, the CM obliged with a mini-press conference right out there.
After the CM's introductory statement thanking him, Gates answered a variety of questions on the involvement of the Gates Foundation in AP (it's putting over $50mn in immunization programs here) and expressed admiration for the CM's commitment for development. And even as he took some pretty aggressive questions like "Will you take personal responsibility if the vaccine for Hepatitis B has dangerous side-effects?" and "Why are you concentrating on Hepatitis B which has 6 cases a year when AIDS is a much more dangerous epidemic?", the smile staying in place every second of the interaction. An interesting part of the interaction was at the end when a man who wanted to give a plant to Gates and got pretty loud about it was thoroughly frisked by the cops. Surprisingly, Gates and the CM drove off in a Lancer - somehow, you'd have thought it'd be a spacecraft or at least an E-Class Merc.
Bill Gates arrived in Hyderabad late in the night on the 13th, and checked into the Taj Krishna. Among his various activities in the city were addressing the press at the Jubilee Hall early in the morning on the 14th, the Shadnagar rendezvous to kick off the immunization program, a date with Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computers, addressing employees of the Microsoft IDC in which the company is investing $100 million (what will they do with that much money, anyway?!) and sumptuous dinner at the Taj Krishna of Mutton Biriyani and Chicken Tikka (surprising for a man who reportedly sticks to Dr. Pringles and Diet Coke) after which he flew back to the US.
For all that newspapers bitch about Naidu's idiosyncrasies, he's firmly put Hyderabad on the global firmament - almost every global business or political leader who visits India comes to town. We should remember that there are over 30 states in the Union, and all of them have capitals. And the results show - the biggest companies are all in town, the call centers provide employment to half the graduates of town every year, and the multiplier effects take care of most of the rest of town. And we can do all this without huge cut-outs hailing revolutionary leaders.