Setting Politics Aside, Modi and Obama Give India A Peek Inside Their Lives

27/01/2015 10:22 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

After two days of discussions over the civil-nuclear deal, business and terrorism, U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi set aside world affairs to strike a more personal note as they addressed millions across India over the radio on Tuesday night.

Obama, the first American president to be the chief guest on India's Republic Day, addressed questions from the public in the 35 minute-long show "Mann Ki Baat" on AIR. It was the first time that 'Mann Ki Baat' had a guest appearing along with Modi, who also moderated the show.

The show aired after Obama wrapped up his three-day visit to India on Tuesday.

Modi kicked off the show by touching on the American leader's roots in Africa. In Swahili, Modi said, Barack means "one who is blessed." "In African cultures, they say 'I am because we are'. It is similar to our saying 'vasudhaiva kutumbakam'," he said.

Obama responded to a question about how he would describe his India trip to his daughters Sasha and Malia. Obama said that his daughters wanted to come to India but they had school. "They are fascinated by India's culture & history," he said. "I'm going to tell them that India is as magnificent as they imagined."

Another question to Modi and Obama was whether they had ever imagined becoming leaders of their respective countries. In an address earlier at the Siri Fort auditorium on Tuesday, Obama had said that his grandfather was a cook and Modi's father was a tea seller.

"When I first visited the White House I stood outside the fence and never imagined I'd be there," he said in response to the question. "Both of us have been blessed with opportunity."

Modi spoke in English and Hindi while Obama spoke in English on the radio show which was also aired on private radio and TV channels. Regional language versions of the show will be aired on January 28 at 9 am. There will be a voice which will translate Modi's words while another voice will translate what Obama says, officials said.

Arrangements have reportedly also been made to ensure that the content of the programme is available outside the country as the broadcast has generated interest abroad as well.

Reflecting on the expanding access to knowledge, Obama said that a more informed youth had changed the rules of governing nations from a "top down" manner to more engagement with citizens. He underlined the need for "rigorous" debate that could be frustrating in a democracy but also lead to the best solutions.

Modi said that "Workers of the world unite" was once the battle cry of the communists. Now, he said, the battle cry should be "Youth unite the world."

Responding to a question on which American leader inspired him, Modi said, Ben Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, who also invented bifocals.

In perhaps one of the most interesting questions on the radio show, the U.S. President opened up about how he got through a bad day at work. "There are days when it is tough and frustrating. What inspires me is that almost everyday I meet somebody who says that you made a difference in my life," Obama said. "If you are helping somebody else, the satisfaction that you can get from that, I think, exceeds anything else that you can do. And that’s usually what makes me inspired to do more."

"I think everybody knows what it is like to have a bad day at work. You just have to keep on working through it. Eventually you make a difference," he said.

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