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Musings in Mumbai

india Updated: Oct 30, 2010 23:48 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times
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President Barack Obama will address a "town hall-type" meet at St Xavier's College during his Mumbai visit. Express News Service, October 27

Dear students of India,
I stand here today, humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. Ooops, sorry that was my inaugural address, someone must have swiped the notes for my Mumbai speech. Who did you say? The ISI? Oh no, I don't think they did it, this is the handiwork of none other than Sarah Palin.

So…ummm……this speech will have to do, I guess. Let me improvise. Why am I humbled? I say to you, anyone who has to sell billions of dollars of fighter jets in the face of cut-throat competition from the Europeans and the Russians will be humbled by the sheer magnitude of the task. That job is rendered doubly difficult because I have to sell arms both to you and to Pakistan and to preach world peace at the same time. Yet I have not only done this but have also managed to bag a Nobel Peace Prize.

The challenges we face in selling these fighter planes are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, India — they will be met.

Why am I grateful for the trust that you have bestowed? Because you trust us in spite of our arms for Pakistan, in spite of all that happened during the Bhopal gas tragedy, in spite of our hobnobbing with the Taliban, in spite of David Headley. On this day, we gather here because you have chosen hope over fear, listening to a crappy speech over enjoying your Diwali holidays. In return, I too give you my trust, a trust backed by my aircraft carrier and seven of our frigates anchored in the seas off Mumbai.

As for the sacrifices borne by your ancestors, I am, as you know, a great admirer of Gandhi, waging wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, always keeping his principles in mind. That is why I visited the Gandhi museum in this great city and had goat's milk there instead of my usual cheeseburger.

To the people of poor nations like ours, you must pledge to work alongside us to make our banks flourish and let our exports flow. You must help us in putting an end to the scourge of outsourcing. You can no longer remain indifferent to the sufferings of the poor American people. In return we offer you our friendship and, who knows, if you buy our stuff, the promise of a permanent seat in the Security Council.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. We are at war, against a far-reaching network of Republicans. Elections have been lost; seats shed. My popularity rankings have reached their nadir. Yet here in India, a recent poll has found that seven in ten of you have confidence in me. I am tempted to stay back among you amazing people, here in your city of Mumbai.

As I consider the road that unfolds before me, I say to you, in the words of the Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm the strength of my tummy; to have that precious gift, that noble thing, passed on from generation to generation: the time has come to eat a vada pav in Mumbai.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.