I wanted to wear a ‘Modi kurta’, said US President Barack Obama as he raised a toast at the banquet hosted in his honour by President Pranab Mukherjee.
As he started his speech, Obama said, “We feel your friendship, ‘dosti’ and I am deeply honoured.”
He recalled a headline back home which asked who is the new fashion icon other than Michelle Obama and said “I was thinking of wearing a Modi kurta myself.”
He appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he is tough and has a style.
“I most often said that my story could happen in America and of course Mr Prime Minister, your story can happen only in India.”
Recalling Modi’s childhood days when his father was a tea vendor and his mother was working in other households, Obama said, “Tonight their son welcomes us as the Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy.
“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 today which made me feel bad. I was doing ok with five.
“What I didn’t know that he survived an attack by a crocodile. So he is tough and he also has style.
Obama recalled his earlier visit to India when he had joined some children in Mumbai on the eve of Diwali. “Last time we were over here, we joined some children in Mumbai for Diwali and we danced.
“It was clear what the Indian press thought and one headline was President Obama visits India and the other said Michelle Obama rocks India.
It is true that Michelle Obama is better dancer than me.”
Lauding the Indian Prime Minister’s efforts to have a UN- designated World Yoga Day, Obama said, “Given the PM’s advocacy at the United Nations, Michelle and I are looking forward to the first International Yoga Day.”
United Nations has marked June 21 as World Yoga Day after Modi had urged the world community to celebrate Indian yoga in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September of last year.
Hailing the “deepest connections and long friendship between our peoples”, Obama also made a mention of iconic American poet Walt Whitman and quoted lines from his poem, ‘Passage to India’, saying it celebrated the “human spirit that joins our nations”.
The US President further said, “India and America have spent the year connected and networked by technology, by family, including millions of Indian-Americans, among them our nation’s first Indian-American ambassador, Richard Verma, and in the sheer work of our world, our purpose, lifting up our fellow citizens, advancing human dignity.
Obama also referred to a hymn, ‘Abide with Me’, “dear to the heart of Mahatma Gandhi” as he proposed a toast “to the great partnerships between our nations, to friendship, to ‘dosti’ between our peoples”.
He said that, “Indians and Americans… in the darkness or day, in good times or bad, whenever one of us looks to the other, we will surely say ‘Abide with Me’.”