From the time US President Barack Obama stepped out of his car at the Parliament House to the Jai Hind that wrapped up his speech, intermittent cheers and claps could be heard at the American Centre auditorium, located three kilometres away from the Parliament.
Obama’s charm, as he tried to thank to India for its hospitality with ‘Bahut Dhanyawad’, elicited an ‘Awww’, some laughter and lot of claps. About 150 people, who had gathered to watch the live telecast of the speech at Kasturba Gandhi Marg, seemed attentive throughout the address.
Whether it was the invention of zero in India, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s influence on his life or references to Swami Vivekananda and Dr BR Ambedkar, every word drew a loud applause.
In a speech that was laden with praise and hope for India, the only note of discomfort was when he mentioned that India has avoided speaking against human rights violation at international platforms.
“He silenced a lot of critics by talking about Pakistan. Though he is factually correct that India is non-responsive at international forums about human rights violation, one cannot ignore America’s stand on Israel,” Professor Mujib-ur-Rahman, who teaches at Jamia Milia Islamia, said.
“There was a lot of rhetoric, and I was very impressed when he mentioned the villages of Punjab and by-lanes of Chandni Chowk. But it was more of a feel-good speech. He talked about Pakistan, terrorism and India's pursuit of a permanent seat at the UN Security Council but they were sweeping statements. There was nothing substantial,” Arundhati Sridhar, a Miranda House student, said.
“I really liked it when Obama said that US will be with India shoulder to shoulder in all endeavours,” Pooja Khanna, a law student at Delhi University, said.
Others like Caroline Howe, an NGO worker, were overwhelmed. “I am excited to be an American in India. I almost choked with emotion when he spoke about Gandhi and Luther and the ways they have influence him. I also liked that he mentioned the need to work towards clean energy and climate change”.
An exhibition of photographs of the Obama family and the president at various national and international platforms was also at display at the centre. Apart from various books on the president’s life, his autobiography and a booklet that traces the president's life were also available.