From Mahatma Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to Mahabharata and Ramayana, Barack Obama’s memoir talks about all his concerns and fascination regarding India. His affection for the country shines through his Indian chapters.
“I had never been to India before. But the country had always held a special place in my imagination…. Maybe it was because I’d spent part of my childhood in Indonesia listening to the epic Hindu tales of Ramayana and the Mahabharata, or because of my interest in Eastern religions, or because of a group of Pakistani Pakistani and Indian College friends who had taught me to cook dal (sic) and keema and turned me on to Bollywood movies,” Obama says in an introductory passage describing his 2010 visit to India.
But even before the scriptures, his fascination with India had to do with Mahatma Gandhi, who along with Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, had profoundly influenced his thinking. “As a young man I studied his writings and found him giving voice to some of my deepest instinct, his notion of Satyagraha, or devotion to truth, and the power of nonviolent resistance to stir the conscience, his insistence on our common humanity,” he says expressing regret that India has not realised the Mahatma’s vision of nation and society.
Barack Obama also expressed admiration and respect for former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. He called him as the “chief architect of India’s economic transformation” and “a self effacing technocrat who had won people’s trust, not by appealing to the passions, but by bringing about higher living standards and maintaining a well earned reputation for not being corrupt.”
His affection turned into concern about India’s future courses through this segment as Obama rightly worries about the communal divide and violence despite the country’s economic progress achieved during Singh’s time as PM.
After his visit to India, he says he found himself asking if “those impulses — of violence, greed, corruption, nationalism, racism, and religious intolerance, the all-too-to-human desire to beat back our own uncertainty and mortality and sense of insignificance by subordinating others — was too strong for any democracy to permanently contain. For they seem to lie in weight everywhere ready to resurface whenever growth rate stalled or demographics change or a charismatic leader chose to ride the waves of people’s fears and resentments.”
Barack Obama’s Memoir is going to be released in volumes. The first and second of which will be released quickly after one another.