For nearly a fortnight this month, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil made a habit of picking up a bunch of her speeches and whenever time permitted, reading them aloud.
The President doesn’t practise her speeches in English. But there were phrases in some of her speeches that sounded
almost like Greek to her. Actually, Spanish and Portuguese.
While planning her first foreign visit, apart from strengthening India’s ties with Mexico, Brazil and Chile, the President also wanted to win a few hearts along the way. And what better way to do this than to speak in your host’s language. So, it was Portuguese in Brazil and Spanish in Mexico and Chile.
“It did take some practice but she wanted to connect with her hosts and build a personal rapport, in their language,” said an aide to the President.
She worked hard on her speeches even during the eight hour-long flights from one country to another. “She wanted to get the nuances of the languages right,” said Nitin D Wakankar, the President’s Deputy Press Secretary.
The idea clicked. She even inspired Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take Hindi lessons before her India visit next year. “She said the Indian President had taught her a few words… and she would pick up some more before her visit to India,” said Wakankar.