This Sunday morning Narendra Modi will wake up in New York on his first trip to America after nearly a decade of pariah-like visa denial. To my delight he’s put all of that behind him and is determined to script a strategic alliance. To use his own words, he’s “greatly confident” of succeeding. I hope he does.
Now, I want to help him, so here’s a bit of gratuitous but well-meant advice. My specific intention is to assist him worm his way into American hearts. It’s clearly the best place to be to achieve his purpose. And though they’re not usually difficult to enter, it’s always useful to know which keys to turn.
If Mr Modi wants to bring large cheesy grins to Yankee faces I suggest he loudly, publicly and, preferably, repeatedly praise the things they’re most proud of. Americans would love that and find it irresistible. But I don’t mean Nasa, Microsoft or old George Washington. No, not even democracy, human rights and entrepreneurship. That’s to be taken for granted.
I mean the more meaningful things that comprise America’s contribution to civilisation, as they know it. And I’m only being a tad tongue-in-cheek. Because the truth is the list I’m about to propose goes to the core of Americana!
To start with Coke. Yanks put it on par with French wine and the British pint. Drunk in sufficient quantity it can match both the hangover and even the burps they so successfully produce. And you can’t deny that it has captured the fancy of the young and trendy across every continent, no matter what their race, religion, language or complexion!
However, he mustn’t stop at Coca-Cola. The discerning Yank would think that’s a bit obvious and Mr Modi’s love of Americana shallow. To prove he’s really au fait with America’s gastronomic contribution to the twentieth century, our PM must move quickly to praise peanut butter.
This is where his true understanding of Yankee taste will become clear to all Americans. Mr. Modi must say he likes the crunchy variety and, preferably, made by either Planters or Skippy. More importantly, he must say he likes it with jelly. And, if he’s really keen to impress then let him add it has to be on plastic bread, which sells in thickly-sliced, plastic-packaged loaves stacked on supermarket shelves and is utterly tasteless. Till you add PB and jelly, of course!
But if Mr Modi wants to go the whole hog – pardon the expression but I intend no comparison – he needs to praise one thing more. Not only does persuasion work better in threes, the third could prove he’s really an American aficionado behind his Mohenjodaro-style beard.
This could be the juicy, beefy, 16-oz Yankee steak but, perhaps, Mr Modi might find that a little difficult to swallow. So let me suggest a perfectly acceptable vegetarian alternative which, additionally, is as American as the Stars and Stripes.
Pumpkin pie! Outside Yankeedoodle-land few have heard of it and none would want to taste it. More fool them! It’s delicious and I personally recommend it. More importantly, Americans adore it. Far more than apple pie.
This should be enough to win the strategic alliance he’s set his heart upon. But if Mr Modi wants to show-off his love for his new allies — and that can’t hurt — let him, at suitable intervals, drop into his conversation how he can’t resist Reeces, Fig Newtons, pretzels and bagels.
They’ll believe him because he has the figure to prove it!
The views expressed by the author are personal