Obama Chale St. Xaviers!

For the most part, I'm not too concerned about American politics. I find it a tad bit boring if anything. Politics ho toh India jaisa; mazedaar! But when "The" President of the United States of America visits the motherland, then you know I'm on it covering every moment, every comment, every step. And amidst the fancy dinners with the best of India ala Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Aamir Khan and Manmohan Singh, the rock stars of entire trip had to be the student of St. Xavier College, Mumbai. In what is easily the most democratic events in India and mind you has never been organized in the history of Indian politics, was an open "town hall" debate where the students had the unique chance of asking Obama questions during a question answer session. The students were treated to a quick intro by Michelle Obama who encouraged the students to ask her husband, some toughies in the form of questions.

While I'm not an avid Obama fan, he did make some valid and other controversial remarks which had me both smiling and then debating. His opening speech highlighted some interesting areas which most students would be able to connect and resonate with. The rhetorical questions geared toward generating more verve in India today really had me going. Obama asked the 300 odd students,"What do you want India to look like in 20 years?" And then he quickly informed them that ultimately this was a question they needed to answer themselves. Despite the terrorism and poverty in the country, Obama recognized the country had progressed and how.

A friend of mine made a valid point. "Obama will go away from India a happy man believing the country is one of the most hospitable. And India played fab host to the President. They ensured his security and made sure their was no reason to complain during his time in India. Now if the government could do the same for its citizens," she said. Baat mein dum hai bhai.

Getting back to his question-answer session with the Xavier students, only five lucky ones were allowed this chance courtesy of the short time. However, those five managed to ask some of the most rock star questions ever. They quizzed him on his opinion of Jihadi's, how to encourage brotherhood in the country, his admiration for Gandhi, his real understanding of his favorite word "Change" and what was really going on on the Afghanistan front. But it was a young girl in glasses who was given the microphone and asked the ultimate question, "Why is Pakistan so important an ally to America that so far America has never called it a terrorist state?" Silence. And then a stuttering Obama answered something that is considered a answer but really just deviated from the question if you ask me. He went on to make a point that I completely and utterly disagree with. "May be surprising to some of you, but I think India has the biggest stake in the success of Pakistan. If Pakistan is unstable, that's bad for India. If it's good and prosperous, that's good," he said. And almost immediately, I found myself in a debate with my father over this. Economy-wise India does not rely on Pakistan. However, in order to keep the peace with a neighboring country that is as volatile as Pakistan and whose government is so unstable. So I guess in that aspect, yes, it is important for Pakistan to be successful. However, how it benefits India ultimately is simply on a safety level.

And with that, the town hall debate came to an end. Ultimately, it wasn't Obama who came out looking like a rock star but the students who shed all inhibitions and asked away. Great to see such honesty and zeal. Now if only our own politicians would come out and talk to the youth like Obama really encouraging true democracy in the country. Until then, power to the students of Xavier; you have officially been bestowed with rock star status...from me anyway!

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