It was like an extended Christmas and an advance New Year celebration for the 3,500 villagers of Varad in Maharashtra's Sindhudurg district.
For visiting them last Sunday was none other than Maharashtrian-origin Leo A. Varadkar, the Prime Minister of Ireland.
The 40-year-old, who in June 2017 became the 14th Prime Minister of Ireland, visited his father's village and spent a night in the family's ancestral home. He was fulfilling his 80-year-old father Ashok Varadkar's desire that he visit Varad, which lies 525km south of Mumbai and is close to the Goa border.
"He arrived in Goa on December 28 for a purely private visit, came to Malvan on Sunday (Dec 29) and spent the night with the whole family and walked around the small village," said his relative Dipti Bhosale-Varadkar.
According to his wishes, there were no VIP trappings, security or protocol for the visiting leader as he roamed around casually in jeans and shirt, smiling and greeting the villagers with a "namaste" and hearty handshake.
Mr Varadkar visited the family temple and a church in the village on Sunday and his father's alma mater, the 119-year-old co-ed Marathi-medium ASD Topiwala High School, on Monday.
He also inaugurated a sports, arts and cultural centre, set up by the Sanskrita Foundation, in memory of his uncles and Indian freedom fighters, and visited the Malvan Municipal Council headquarters and the offices of Madhukar V. Varadkar, a Malvan mayor in the 1940s.
According to the Prime Minister's cousin Shubhada Varadkar, a noted Odissi exponent, he marvelled at the simple Konkani village lifestyle.
The villagers reciprocated by preparing a classical Malvani feast for Mr Varadkar and his family - father Ashok, mother Miriam, partner Matt and sisters Sofia and Sonia and their husbands and children. It comprised seafood, spicy chicken, rice, chapati, mango pickle and dry chutney.
The women in the village also prepared "modaka", usually prepared during the annual Ganeshotsav festival, and "gulab jamun" for him.
"All through Leo Varadkar was very carefree, mingled with the people, interacted with all the relatives and took a keen interest in many things," said Ms Dipti.
She is hopeful that on his next trip he will visit the Varadkar clan's bungalow in Borivali, Mumbai.
The Prime Minister's Mumbai-born father Ashok is a regular visitor to Varad, speaks fluent Marathi in Malvan style, has helped rebuild his old school and family house and donated books and uniforms to poor students.
Indo-Asian News Service