AHMEDABAD: US President Donald Trump on Monday managed to mangle his pronunciation of several Indian names and a Hindi word on an otherwise successful first day of his state visit to India.
Cheered by more than 100,000 people at the opening of the world’s largest cricket stadium, Trump tried to praise his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for achieving high office despite his humble origins as a tea seller, or “chai wala”.
“The life of Prime Minister Modi underscores the limitless promise of this great nation. He started out by his father’s side as a ‘chee wala’, a tea-seller,” Trump said, drawing laughter, cheers and jokes on Twitter.
Modi often invokes his humble family roots at political rallies, presenting himself as a man of the people who has fought his way to the top against great odds. Trump, though from a much more privileged background, also likes to pose as a champion of ordinary Americans against a remote, uncaring elite.
“When he (Modi) was a young man, he worked at a cafeteria in this city... I will tell you this, he’s very tough,” Trump said, pausing for a firm handshake with Modi, his “true friend”.
Modi, a nationalist who won re-election last year and has shifted his country firmly to the right with policies that his critics decry as ethnically divisive, touts his relationship with Trump as proof of his own global standing.
In his speech, Trump also cited a famous 19th century Hindu monk — often quoted by Modi himself — Swami Vivekananda, but it came out as ‘Vivekamumund”, to the delight of the crowd, many of whom wore Trump masks and “Namaste (hello) Trump” hats.
Trump also stumbled over the names of Modi’s home state of Gujarat and its biggest city Ahmedabad — where he was speaking — as well as the names of two Indian cricket heroes, Sachin Tendulkar and current team captain Virat Kohli.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020