I wanted to write one more post on Barack Obama's visit here before moving on to other subjects. I admit that over the past week I've been somewhat infatuated by his skills. I mentioned yesterday his oratory talents, of which I know I'm only one among millions of admirers. Most American presidents seem to have the ability to hold their audiences' attention. But there's something more to Obama – you can't help waiting to hear what he says next, and every sentence comes laden with an idea or message.
My admiration is strengthened by the fact that he's the first political leader I've seen in this country who actually has people listening to, as well as hearing, his words. After all, we live in a country where attending a public meeting is an opportunity to earn some extra money and a vada pav or samosa to feast on. It's also a country where people from rural areas are paid to huddle into open trucks to be ferried to the cities to listen to political leaders (and in the process get the added bonus of seeing the urban landscape for themselves). Somewhere in this great Indian democratic tamasha wanders the spirit of Indian nationhood.
I've often heard Obama sharing his idea about the American dream. But now I've also seen him closer to home – and talking about India to its people far more eloquently than its own leaders can. His address to the Indian Parliament connected with the masses in a way rarely seen among our own ruling classes. He spoke about everything from the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk to the high-rises of Bangalore. He talked about the Indian dream more intensely than any of our frontbench political leadership could have managed.
When will our leaders get something of the Obama?