Significantly, Maraniss relates that Obama was in the San Francisco area only to tell a larger story of how he first met Sohale Siddiqi, the Pakistani who later became Obama’s roommate at Columbia University. In Maraniss’s account, Siddiqi first meets up with Hasan Chandoo and Wahid Hamid, two wealthy Pakistani students who were also studying at Occidental. “During the Christmas break that year,” writes Maraniss, “Sohale Siddiqi, a friend of Hasan’s and Wahid’s who lived in New York, came out to visit.”
In Maraniss’s book, Siddiqi is the recipient of some minor good fortune since he is able to sleep in young Obama’s empty bed. “There was a room available at the apartment in Pasadena,” Maraniss writes. “Obama had left on a road trip and ended up in San Francisco. On the night of December 31, Hasan and Sohale and some buddies drove up to San Francisco for a New Year’s Eve party, and it was there that Siddiqi encountered Chandoo’s roommate for the first time.” (See, Maraniss, 2012, p. 367.)
What is historically inaccurate about Maraniss’s account is that young Obama and his roommate Chandoo were travelling together when I first met them at Caroline Boss’s parent’s home in northern California. This, after all, is what I first reported as early as February 2010. I am happy to stand by that story. Moreover, I would have been happy to verify this somewhat important detail for Maraniss — if he had interviewed me. Personally, I would have enjoyed learning from Maraniss what, if anything, President Obama shared with him about this Christmas break road trip.
As it now stands, however, Maraniss’s erroneous report that Obama and Chandoo were travelling separately leads to an implausible story regarding how they got back to Occidental College in time for their classes. In Maraniss’s account, Chandoo’s overall road trip starts to read like something of a reckless NASCAR event.