Bangalore girl Mandira Tiwari was in class 8 when Barack Obama warned Americans about outsourcing to India’s software hub, and then about Indian students like her surpassing their US counterparts in science and math.
But three years later, Tiwari holds neither rancor, nor anxiety as Obama swears in for his second term as US President. Instead, Tiwari and nine other Indian students who have traveled to Washington DC under a special US government supported programme to see Obama up close at his reinauguration on Monday, carry hope.
“Yes, his rhetoric may not be the greatest, but I’ve seen the changes he has brought, and that’s why I still prefer him in the White House,” Tiwari, now in class 11 at Indus International School, Bangalore said.
The Indian school students – from Indus Valley and Indore-based Daly College – have been selected under the Lead America initiative, a programme that takes selected students from countries across the world to witness the inaugural ceremony of US presidents every four years.
Obama’s first swearing in and inaugural ceremony – in January 2009 – witnessed over a million people thronging Washington Square in the US capital to catch a glimpse of that nation’s first President with African American origins. Monday’s ceremony is expected to be relatively low key, with fewer people expected to attend.
But for the 10 Indian students, it’s a chance to witness history, as Obama speaks to the world during his reinauguration.
“He’s been a good president over the past four years,” said Indus Valley class 9 student Aditya Sheaker.
Obama has repeatedly stated that he wants to end tax incentives that encourage companies to outsource jobs to countries like India. "It's a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York," he told a public meeting in May 2009. Just a month later, he warned Americans about Indian students surpassing them academically. “The Chinese, the Indians, they are coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down," he said.
But Kuber Singh, who was among a few select Indian students who attended Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, insisted that he still respects the US president four years on. “Back then, it was a moving experience, as millions were hoping for change, a new direction,” Singh, then a student of Delhi’s GD Goenka School, and now an undergraduate student in Canada, said. “And he has started pulling out of wars he said he would, the economy is slowly recovering.”
“I am still very hopeful about him.”
(An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Tiwari's school as Indus Valley International School.)