Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sartorial splendour seems to have earned him a fan in the most powerful man on the planet. US President Barack Obama on Sunday said he wanted to wear the ‘Modi kurta’, while the Indian PM spoke at length about “Barack and his” friendship and “personal chemistry”.
Obama and Modi reprised the bonhomie that had marked their interactions four months earlier in Washington DC. The day began with Modi departing from protocol to drive to the airport to receive the US President and First Lady Michelle. Later in the day, the two sat side by side without officials and aides on the lawns of Hyderabad House, preparing tea for each other.
Modi was asked about his “easy camaraderie” with Obama and the discussions the two leaders had during their “one-on-one restricted session” on the lawns. Modi said some discussions were better left behind curtains as Obama, half in jest, nodded a firm assent. The Indian PM confessed that his friend “Barack” and he enjoyed a “personal chemistry” that has brought not only Washington and Delhi but also the people of the two countries closer. “Our friendship is marked by openness,” said Modi. The PM said he “was a newcomer” to international politics, but what “mattered” was the openness and chemistry and a rapport is built between two leaders, away from the flashbulbs of cameras, and not “commas and full stops” of a document.
At the media interaction, the US President began his opening remarks with a “pyar bhara namaskar”, and more than once lauded Modi for his energy and his ambitions for his people.
He recalled how Modi got a reception of a “Bollywood star” during his visit to the US in September, and that he valued their “personal friendship”. Obama alluded to Modi’s Lok Sabha election campaign to describe their tea session as “chai pe charcha”. The US President said the White House was in need of more such “chai pe charcha”.
Obama also applauded the prime minister’s work ethic. “Now we all know about prime minister’s legendary work ethics. He (Modi) was explaining to me today that how he got only three hours sleep which made me feel bad. I was doing ok with five,” Obama said. He said possibly after six years in the job, as he himself has done, Modi could add an hour of sleep more. At the presidential banquet, Obama said he knew Modi has become a style icon to rival his wife Michelle and he was thinking of wearing a ‘Modi kurta’ himself.
“I most often said my story could happen in America and of course Mr Prime Minister, your story can happen only in India,” Obama said, referring to Modi’s father being a tea vendor and mother working in other households. “What I didn’t know that he survived an attack by a crocodile. So he is tough and he also has style,” the US President said of Modi.