Sunday, November 15, 2009

President Everyman

Barack Obama has worked in universities in New England and Chicago, bridging the freshwater - saltwater divide. In the midwest, he speaks of his mother's Kansas upbringing; when addressing troops, he refers to his grandfather Stanley who fought in WW2; in West Asia and North Africa, he mentions his Muslim father. His childhood years in Indonesia allow him to feel at home in South East Asia; in sub-Saharan Africa, his Kenyan half is prominent; and now, in Japan and China, he has used his time in Hawaii to label himself the first Pacific President of the United States.
Nothing connects President Obama to India, as far as I know, apart from the picture of Mahatma Gandhi he keeps in his office. When he visits this country, though, I suspect he will reveal some biographical detail that will encourage us to claim him as an honorary Indian.


Shawn said...

During last years election coverage, I remember the Indian media going nuts over reports that Obama carried a 'Ganesha-on-a-keychain' every where he went. I suspect that's what he'll whip out when he needs to establish his India connection.

That said, I love that the current 'Most Powerful Man In The World' looks to build links and connections with the rest of the world. Contrast that with the previous holder of the post who was just as adept at alienating and making enemies. Obama may not be the magician that he's hyped to be, but lets give him credit where credit is due.

Girish Shahane said...

Absolutely, Shawn, I think he's done a great job so far.

Unknown said...

i believe he also had a hanuman.. rather than ganesha. And it was due to his upbringing in indonesia.

Also remember, that he had a Pakistani roommate once and he had visited Pakistan for a few weeks - so he is a honorary south asian at least :D

Anonymous said...

goodness - why so much of oba-mania all of a sudden ? Even in the US, the honeymoons been over !
And we really need to ask ourselves "inse humko kya milega ?" s anand

Girish Shahane said...

We don't need to dance to the US tune, do we? Mikhail Gorbachev remained popular across the world, with good reason, after he fell from favour with the Russian public. As for current US polls, I believe Obama is still by far the most popular politician in that country, and his approval ratings far exceed his disapproval scores.
When you use the word "humko", what does the "hum" refer to? Indians? Are we exclusively Indians or also part of the world community with a stake in what happens across the globe? Do we measure what we receive only in terms of direct trade terms? There are so many benefits, not precisely calculable, which accrue to most nations if the global order is relatively peaceful, as it holds promise of becoming with Obama in charge in the White House.

Anonymous said...

whichever way u consider humko , i think its a valid q. Obama started off with a groundswell of worldwide support but a statesman needs to convert thoughts and words into action. I dont doubt for a minute he's still very very popular if for no reason other than that he's not GB2. i'm not sure hope and promise alone is enough to make for a peaceful world.

Girish Shahane said...

What is a valid question? The one about Obama-mania? My post is pretty neutral, tending to ironic, and then there was a response about how Obama is looking to build connections, which I agreed with.
Nobody has suggested that promise alone is enough to make for a peaceful world.

Avik.. said...

Don't make any mistake, this guy is good (make it really good) at making connection.

Not just a Hanuman-keychain in pocket and claim of 'I-know-how-to-prepare-dal' (learnt from his pakistani roomy i think), this is one prez who delivered a diwali address with few chosen hindi words like 'mithai' and 'diya' thrown in for good measure.

Of course having few desi (half-desi?) people in the team (kalpen modi and vivek kundra for example) helps. Not to mention being Dubya's successor, which inevitably makes you 'awesome' if you can speak three correct sentences in English... :)