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Mayor of Indian city visits Lilburn officials

LILBURN - Indian delicacies - made by a Lilburn baker - were passed around Friday to symbolize a "sweet" new relationship between the southwestern Gwinnett city and Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.

The mayor of the Indian city, the hometown of Mahatma Ghandi, visited Lilburn, home of a $19 million mandir for the Hindu BAPS Shri Swaminarayan sect. It is the third mandir to open in America.

Jitu Patel, a Lilburn resident heading a commission intent on establishing a sister city relationship between Ahmedabad and Atlanta, said Mayor Amit Shah came to Georgia for a greenspace and transportation seminar, but he was glad to squeeze in the trip to the suburbs.

"He was very impressed. He said it is a nice beautiful area. He was impressed by the dogwood trees," Patel said of Shah, adding that he hoped the relationship with Indian officials would improve business dealings. "It will open up a lot of avenues, education, cultural, business, medical and others."

Lilburn's Mayor Diana Preston had the same hopes. She accepted a colorful chakada - a handmade embroidered wall hanging - from Shah's family before a crowd of Indian officials, Lilburn business owners and officials and Indian-Americans living in Lilburn.

"We're looking forward to having a long relationship and friendship and an opportunity to share cultural ideas," she said. "An exchange of ideas makes our entire culture stronger."