Opinions

Six hilarious ways Modi tried to match Obama’s cool quotient (but failed miserably)

Excessive PDA, a crass suit with his name all over it: the Indian prime minister didn't exactly keep it classy.

1.   Let’s face it, Narendra Modi’s exuberant bear hugs, vigorous handshakes, lingering hand-clutching and uncontrollable waving with US President Barack Obama as a desi version of  “Gimme Five” was ludicrously over the top.  The bear hug and hand shaking on the tarmac at Delhi airport where Modi broke protocol to personally receive Obama to more handshakes and waves at Rashtrapati Bhavan, to another bear hug and more vigorous handshakes and clutches before and after the press meet at Hyderabad House, then at the Indo-US CEO forum, Republic Day Parade etc etc, must have left Obama thanking the Lord that the bump and grind hadn’t reached 7 Race Course Road yet.

Now, we know the touchy-feely M.O.D.I Luvin' was for telly marketing and photo ops for millions across the country, but could Modi have been so effusive with Asian, Latin-American or Anglo-Saxon world leaders? Apart from the standard, vigorous handshake (and a bit of backslapping with Australian prime minister), Modi was certainly trying to get into the groove with Cool Obama, who has famously fist- bumped and high-fived his way across the world. Modi must give Bro Obama a big thank you for the slammin’ and jammin’ the way only Obama can. For real cool, it’s time Modi rapped “America avi gayo”.

 2.   The most embarrassing moment was when Modi referred to Obama as “Barack” at the formal joint Press meet after their luncheon at Hyderabad House. Now, Obama has addressed British Prime Minister David Cameron as Bro’ informally, but did Modi have to refer to Obama by his first name at the formal joint press conference when the world’s media, cabinet ministers and officials were sitting attentively? There was no question that Obama blanched and turned his attention to Modi, who carried on blissfully and referred to the US Prez as Barack yet again. Modi was talking in Hindi and the deliberate message of familiarity was being beamed to desi viewers, but it was gauche, awkward and clumsy.

 3.   The bespoke pinstriped dark navy wool suit that Modi wore to the bilateral talks with Obama at Hyderabad House was no ordinary pinstripe but his name Narendra Damordas Modi embroidered all over the fabric. While the last world leader to don such a suit (it costs around 15,000 sterling pounds or Rs 15 lakhs today) was deposed Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak, it certainly out-dazzled Obama’s working dark grey suit (to cut down on non-vital decisions, the US Prez only wears grey and blue ). However, if Modi was thinking hip-hop bling and ice accessories (his fave diamond Movado watch), it certainly got Obama to make a mention at the President’s banquet when he foxily pointed out how a newspaper back home wrote, “Move aside, Michelle Obama. The world has a new fashion icon.” It must have not passed Obama’s notice that Modi had changed his attire thrice that day.

 4.    If the fashion barb was not enough, Obama even referred to Modi as a Bollywood star. Obviously, Obama had not forgotten Modi’s Central Park cameo last year during his visit to the US soon after he became prime minister, when Modi strode on the stage at a performance and mouthed the Star Wars credo, “May the force be with you.” Later, Modi’s Madison Square Garden address to NRIs was a lurid pageant to himself rather than a Jay Z high energy concert. Now, does Modi want to be seen as a statesman or be compared to a leader’s spouse in the fashion sweepstakes?

 5.   So much so, after calling Obama “Barack”, it was a slightly piqued Obama who stressed that it was not the “personal friendship” between him and Modi that they were able to build in a “brief amount of time”, but they were reflecting the warmth and affection between Indians and Americans, and the values shared between India and US that makes the bond so strong and promising. Obama referred to the Indian prime minister as Modi only when he was recounting a personal anecdote – on how many hours of sleep they both get. That’s rap for Modi, from Obama. Chilla.

 6. Finally, it was a forceful Obama who underlined the gospel of African-American cool – the testament of Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi, the US president's revered gods of non-violence, equality, freedom, liberty, and democratic ideals of modern society. Wonder what Modi thought when Obama passionately said at his Town Hall address, that “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.” And that “every person has the right to practice their faith, how they choose or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution”, finally concluding, “Nowhere is this more important than in India.”

Is Modi willing to play the Obama gig? There’s no music yet. Everyone’s waiting.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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