The Narendra Modi government’s push for Hindi found an unlikely mascot in US President Barack Obama who sprinkled his public speech at Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium on Tuesday with phrases like “Bahut dhanyawad” and “Jai Hind”.
The US president struck a personal chord with the mainly youthful crowd, saying he was very impressed with the daredevilry of the motorcycle contingent riding Royal Enfield bikes during the Republic Day parade and said he wished he could ride a bike too.
“But the Secret Service does not let me ride motorcycles,” said Obama, adding that he cannot dance as well as his wife, Michelle.
The President recounted how on his 2010 trip he visited the Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and met some labourers working there. He introduced one of them, 16-year old Vishal, and said he was happy the teenager was now studying and pursuing his dream of joining the armed forces.
Obama drew applause when he said he had as his wife a “strong lady” who could say so to him when she disagreed with him.
At the end of the speech, the Obamas held hands and mingled with the excited crowd clamouring to shake hands with them and click pictures on their cellphones, before the US first couple headed towards the exit.