The ‘Jumma-Chumma’ Moment – Bushra Alvi


US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015. Credit: Jim Bourg/Reuters
US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 25, 2015. Credit: Jim Bourg/Reuters


[dropcap]M[/dropcap]uch has been written and discussed about the historic visit of the President of the US to India, Prime Minister Modi’s ‘yaari-dosti’ and Michelle’s peeve that there is already an overdose of it. But I couldn’t resist adding my two cents.

Our overenthusiastic Prime Minister broke protocol as he drove in to welcome President Obama at the gate of his aircraft. He was so happy, he could cry. He had finally accomplished what none of his predecessors could – getting an American president as the chief guest for the Republic Day Parade.  And what followed was a series of ‘Jumma-Chumma’ moments between the two that would fade the original Jumma-Chumma couple into oblivion. Move over, Amitabh Bachchan and Kimi Katkar, Namo is here.

India and the world watched with great expectations as Prime Minister Modi hugged and embraced Barack Obama, the most powerful person in the world. The air was thick with camaraderie, back-slapping, hand-holding, first name-calling and all. PM Modi’s ‘yaari-dosti’ continued for the next two days. He didn’t let dear ‘Barack’ out of sight for as long as he could manage. Long walks, secret talks, shared laughter – it was all there. And then, as the twosome settled comfortably on large white chairs under a carefully pitched tent on the immaculate lawns of Hyderabad House, Namo looked at the tray before him and then intently into ‘Barack’s’ eyes and asked: “Coffee, tea, or…?”

‘Barack’ opted for chai leading to some personal Chai pe Charcha moments between the two greats. They had so many stories to fill each other in on and so much juicy gossip to share and seemed oblivious to the world as they did so.

The media had a field day reporting the budding ‘bromance’ and the reunion of the BFFs. Caustic tongues went a-wagging too at Michelle Obama’s underplay of emotions, lack of enthusiasm, bored look during the R-Day Parade and general why-did-I-tag-along mood.

So, one wonders what the reason behind this mood sulk was. It’s pretty obvious, ain’t it? Michelle, on this trip, was the unwanted third in the Modi-Obama partnership. She had also been promised a trip to the Taj – the symbol of everlasting love, but the trip had to be cancelled as the couple had to fly to Saudi Arabia to pay their respects to the Royal Family in the wake of the death of King Abdullah. Maybe Michelle could have done a quick trip to the Taj while her husband and Namo were ‘bromancing’ but I guess she didn’t want to do a Lady Di.

The dress Michelle wore when she landed at Delhi didn’t draw appreciative remarks either. FLOTUS chose to wear a floral dress and coat with a graphic floral design from the Spring 2015 collection from Bibhu Mohapatra, an Indian designer based in New York. Though she looked chic, I, personally, would have preferred if she had worn something more cheerful, more Indian, on a cold winter morning than the blue and black that she had donned.

However, the black coat she wore the next morning to the parade with its dash of red looked smart and suitable. Clothes aside, one must appreciate that she sat through a not so exciting parade for two hours, that too on a cold wet chair sampling Delhi’s intermittent chilly rain. Full credit to her for that. I am curious to know why there was no covering over the VVIP enclosure. Surely a see-through glass roof would have made our esteemed guests more comfortable. Wonder what happened to our ‘mehmaan nawazi’?

Modi more than made up for Michelle’s lackluster look with his saffron coloured shawl at the airport, his multi-coloured head gear at the Republic Day celebrations and a bright orange jacket at the President’s at-home function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. His clothes reflected his up-beat mood and his optimism at the deepening Indo-US ties. However, his ‘Aha’ moment was when he wore his most ‘suit’able attire, the one which has also been repeatedly under global attack since. But then he is not the only PM to bear the brunt of scathing remarks about his choice of clothes.

Not many know about former Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama and his much-mocked multi-coloured shirt – an eye-boggling checked shirt with blue and yellow sleeves, a red front, purple back and green cuffs. Eeeeks! At least Mr. Modi’s suit was a decent dark blue. Is the fuss about the pin stripes warranted?

On second thoughts, don’t many of us wear monogrammed shirts or jackets or use monogrammed towels, bathrobes, pillow cases, handkerchiefs, etc. Then why the hue and cry about PM Modi’s suit which was just a case of an extended monogram and a special gift from a very ardent admirer. One wonders though why his name was not woven in Hindi or, better still, in Sanskrit. That would have been truly classic.

Even though Modi’s sartorial style was under attack repeatedly during the Obama visit, his message was loud and clear: Je suis Narendra Damodardas Modi and je suis the Prime Minister of India, and the world better know it!


All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs and comments by readers are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan


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