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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Barack Obama praises Manmohan Singh highly in his new memoir

In the first of his memoir, Two Promised Land, which is a two-part memoir, the former U.S President Barack Obama expresses at length about his interests in India, the life of Mahatma Gandhi and his relationships with the former Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, whom Obama addresses as a man of “uncommon wisdom and decency.”

Obama wrote: “A gentle, soft-spoken economist in his seventies, with a white beard and a turban that were the marks of his Sikh faith but to the Western eye lent him the air of a holy man, he had been India’s finance minister in the 1990’s, managing to lift millions of people from poverty. For the duration of his tenure as the Prime Minister, I would find Singh to wise, thoughtful, and scrupulously honest.”

The former U.S president in his memoir wrote that his first trip to India was in 2010, but the place had always held a special place in his imagination. This is possibly due to the “sheer size” with a sixth of humanity and 2,000 distinct ethnic groups and over 700 languages. He also speculated this possibility because he listened to the Mahabharata and Ramayana during his childhood in Indonesia, or his interest in eastern religions, or because a couple of Indian and Pakistani friends in college taught Barack Obama, how to cook ‘dal’ and ‘kheema’ and also introduced him to Bollywood movies.

Writing at length about Mahatma Gandhi in his book

Barack Obama, in memoir, has written about the life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, also including the inspiration which the U.S. Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. drew from Gandhiji’s philosophical ideologies. He also describes about a visit with the former first lady Michelle Obama to Mumbai’s, Mani Bhavan where Gandhiji used to stay.

While Barack Obama writes about the many success stories of India in many respects, he is not all praise for the country. In his book, he talks about the striking inequality between the rich and poor class. “Violence, both public and private continued to be an all too pervasive part of the Indian life.”

Mr. Manmohan Singh’s restraint against Pakistan after the November 2011 attacks on Mumbai had cost him politically. “Manmohan Singh had feared the rising anti-Muslim sentiment had strengthened the influence of India’s main opposition party, the Hindu nationalist BJP.” Obama further write quoting Manmohan Singh: “In uncertain times, Mr. President, the call of religious and ethnic solidarity can be intoxicating. And it is not so hard for politicians to exploit that, in India or anywhere else.”

Describing the rise of illiberalism in wealthy nations in Obama’s Memoir

Barack Obama’s description of individuals throughout the book, is often included of a physical aspect, this applies to both men and women. During his trip to India, the former president described his meetings with Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. “Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi sat at our dinner table that night. She was a striking woman in her sixties, dressed in a traditional saree, with dark eyes and a quiet regal presence.” Ms. Gandhi listened more than she spoke, he wrote attributing her power to a shrewd and forceful intelligence.

As for Rahul Gandhi, he seemed smart and earnest to Barack Obama. He wrote in his memoir about his good looks resembling Sonia Gandhi. He offered up his thoughts on the future of progressive politics, where he occasionally paused to probe Mr. Obama on the details of the 2008 campaign. “There was a nervous, unformed quality about him,” Obama wrote. “As if her were a student who had done the coursework and was eager to impress the teacher but deep down lacked either the aptitude or the passion to master the subject.”

The memoir takes us back to 2011, which is towards the end of Barack Obama’s first term. Which can also be presumed why he doesn’t speak about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who became the PM in 2014 and hosted Barack Obama in New Delhi at the Republic Day celebrations. It is expected that there will be a second volume of Mr. Obama’s memoir, although the release date has not been announced.

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