A special episode of the Prime Minister's radio broadcast Mann ki Baat featuring US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was aired on Tuesday night.
The 35-minute special broadcast of 'Mann Ki Baat', which marked the rapport between Modi and Obama, touched on issues ranging from public health and personal inspirations of the two leaders, both of whom have come up from simple beginnings to assume to top positions of the respective countries.
What follows is a transcript of the Mann ki Baat episode.
(Narendra Modi): Today, Barack Obama, President of the United States, joins us in a special programme of Mann Ki Baat. For the last few months, I have been sharing my Mann Ki Baat with you. But today, people from various parts of the country have asked questions.
But most of the questions are connected to politics, foreign policy, economic policy. However, some questions touch the heart. And I believe if we touch those questions today, we shall be able to reach out to the common man in different parts of the country.
And therefore, the questions asked in press conferences, or discussed in meetings -- instead of those -- if we discuss what comes from the heart, and repeat it, hum it, we get a new energy. And therefore, in my opinion, those questions are more important.
Some people wonder, what does "Barack" mean? I was searching for the meaning of Barack. In Swahili language, which is spoken in parts of Africa, Barack means, one who is blessed. I believe, along with a name, his family gave him a big gift.
African countries have lived by the ancient idea of ‘Ubuntu’, which alludes to the ‘oneness in humanity’. They say -- "I am, because we are”. Despite the gap in centuries and borders, there is the same spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which is spoken of in India. This is the great shared heritage of humanity. This unites us.
When we discuss Mahatma Gandhi, we remember Henry Thoreau, from whom Mahatma Gandhi learnt disobedience. When we talk about Martin Luther King or Obama, we hear from their lips, respect for Mahatma Gandhi. These are the things that unite the world.
Today, Barack Obama is with us. I will first request him to share his thoughts. Then, I and Barack will both answer the questions that have been addressed to us.
I request President Barack Obama to say a few words….....
(Barack Obama): Namaste! Thank you Prime Minister Modi for your kind words and for the incredible hospitality you have shown me and my wife Michelle on this visit and let me say to the people of India how honoured I am to be the first American President to join you for Republic Day; and I’m told that this is also the first ever Radio address by an Indian Prime Minister and an American President together, so we’re making a lot of history in a short time. Now to the people of India listening all across this great nation.
It’s wonderful to be able to speak you directly. We just come from discussions in which we affirmed that India and the United States are natural partners, because we have so much in common. We are two great democracies, two innovative economies, two diverse societies dedicated to empowering individuals. We are linked together by millions of proud Indian Americans who still have family and carry on traditions from India.
And I want to say to the Prime Minister how much I appreciate your strong personal commitment to strengthening the relationship between these two countries.
People are very excited in the United States about the energy that Prime Minister Modi is bringing to efforts in this country to reduce extreme poverty and lift people up, to empower women, to provide access to electricity, and clean energy and invest in infrastructure, and the education system.
And on all these issues, we want to be partners. Because many of the efforts that I am promoting inside the United States to make sure that the young people get the best education possible, to make sure that the ordinary people are properly compensated for their labour, and paid fair wages, and have job security and health care. These are the same kinds of issues that Prime Minister Modi, I know cares so deeply about here. And I think there’s a common theme in these issues.
It gives us a chance to reaffirm what Gandhi ji reminded us, should be a central aim of our lives. And that is, we should endeavour to seek God through service of humanity because God is in everyone. So these shared values, these convictions, are a large part of why I am so committed to this relationship.
I believe that if the United States and India join together on the world stage around these values, then not only will our peoples be better off, but I think the world will be more prosperous and more peaceful and more secure for the future. So thank you so much Mr. Prime Minister, for giving me this opportunity to be with you here today.
(Narendra Modi): Barack the first question comes from Raj from Mumbai
His question is, the whole world knows about your love for your daughters. How will you tell your daughters about youre experience of India? Do you plan to do some shopping for them?
(Barack Obama): Well first of all they very much wanted to come. They are fascinated by India, Unfortunately each time that I have taken a trip here, they had school and they couldn’t leave school. And in fact, Malia, my older daughter, had exams just recently.
They are fascinated by the culture, and the history of India, in part because of my influence I think, they are deeply moved by India’s movement to Independence, and the role that Gandhi played, in not only the non-violent strategies here in India, but how those ended up influencing the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So when I go back I am going to tell them that India is as magnificent as they imagined.
And I am quite sure that they are going to insist that I bring them back the next time I visit. It may not be during my Presidency, but afterwards they will definitely want to come and visit.
And I will definitely do some shopping for them. Although I can’t go to the stores myself, so I have to have my team do the shopping for me. And I’ll get some advice from Michelle, because she probably has a better sense of what they would like.
(Narendra Modi): Barack said he will come with his daughters. I extend an invitation to you. Whether you come as President, or thereafter, India looks forward to welcoming you and your daughters.
Sanika Diwan from Pune, Maharashtra has asked me a question. She asks me, whether I have sought assistance from President Obama for the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Mission
Sanika you have asked a good question. There is a lot of worry because of the sex ratio in India. For every 1,000 boys, the number of girls is less. And the main reason for this is that, there is a defect in our attitudes towards boys and girls.
Whether or not I seek help from President Obama, his life is in itself an inspiration. The way he has brought up his two daughters, the way he is proud of his two daughters.
In our country too, I meet many families who have only daughters. And they bring up their daughters with such pride; give them such respect that is the biggest inspiration. I believe that inspiration is our strength. And in response to your question, I would like to say, to save the girl child, to educate the girl child, this is our social duty, cultural duty, and humanitarian responsibility. We should honour it.
Barack, there is a question for you. The second question for President Obama comes through e-mail: Dr. Kamlesh Upadhyay, a Doctor based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat - Your wife is doing extensive work on tackling modern health challenges like obesity and diabetes. These are increasingly being faced in India as well. Would you and the First Lady like to return to India to work on these issues after your Presidency, just like Bill and Melinda Gates?
(Barack Obama): Well, we very much look forward to partnering with organizations, and the government and non-governmental organizations here in India, around broader Public Health issues including the issue of obesity.
I am very proud of the work that Michelle has done on this issue. We’re seeing a world-wide epidemic of obesity, in many cases starting at a very young age. And a part of it has to do with increase in processed foods, not naturally prepared. Part of it is a lack of activity for too many children. And once they are on this path, it can lead to a life time of health challenges.
This is an issue that we would like to work on internationally, including here in India. And it is a part of a broader set of issues around global health that we need to address. The Prime Minister and I have discussed, for example, how we can do a better job in dealing with issues like pandemic.
And making sure that we have good alert systems so that if a disease like Ebola, or a deadly flu virus, or Polio appears, it is detected quickly and then treated quickly so that it doesn’t spread. The public health infrastructure around the world needs to be improved. I think the Prime Minister is doing a great job in focusing on these issues here in India. And India has a lot to teach many other countries who may not be advancing as rapidly in improving this public health sector.
But it has an impact on everything, because if children are sick they can’t concentrate in school and they fall behind. It has a huge economic impact on the countries involved and so we think that there is a lot of progress to be made here and I am very excited about the possibilities of considering this work even after I leave office.
(Narendra Modi): Arjun asks me a question. An interesting question. He says he has seen an old photo of me as a tourist outside the White House. He asks me what touched me when I went there last September.
It is true that when I first went to America, I was not lucky enough to visit the White House. There is an iron fence far from the White House. We stood outside the fence and took a photograph. White House is visible in the background. Now that I have become Prime Minister, that photo too has become popular. But at that time, I had never thought that sometime in my life, I would get a chance to visit the White House.
But when I visited the White House, one thing touched my heart. I can never forget that. Barack gave me a book, a book that he had located after considerable effort. That book had become famous in 1894. Swami Vivekananda, the inspiration of my life, had gone to Chicago to participate in the World Religions Conference.
And this book was a compilation of the speeches delivered at the World Religions Conference. That touched my heart. And not just this. He turned the pages of the book, and showed me what was written there. He had gone through the entire book!
And he told me with pride, I come from the Chicago where Swami Vivekananda had come. These words touched my heart a lot. And I will treasure this throughout my life. So once, standing far from the White House and taking a photo, and then, to visit the White House, and to receive a book on someone whom I respect. You can imagine, how it would have touched my heart.
Barack there is a question for you. Himani from Ludhiana, Punjab. Question is for you ……
(Barack Obama): Well the question is "Did you both imagine you would reach the positions that you’ve reached today?”
And it is interesting, Mr. Prime Minister, your talking about the first time you visited White House and being outside that iron fence. The same is true for me. When I first went to the White House, I stood outside that same fence, and looked in, and I certainly did not imagine that I would ever be visiting there, much less living there. You know, I think both of us have been blessed with an extraordinary opportunity, coming from relatively humble beginnings.
And when I think about what’s best in America and what’s best in India, the notion that a tea seller or somebody who’s born to a single mother like me, could end up leading our countries, is an extraordinary example of the opportunities that exist within our countries.
Now I think, a part of what motivates both you and I, is the belief that there are millions of children out there who have the same potential but may not have the same education, may not be getting exposed to opportunities in the same way, and so a part of our job, a part of government’s job is that young people who have talent, and who have drive and are willing to work for, are able to succeed.
And that’s why we are emphasizing school, higher education. Making sure that children are healthy and making sure those opportunities are available to children of all backgrounds, girls and boys, people of all religious faiths and of all races in the United States is so important.
Because you never know who might be the next Prime Minister of India, or who might be the next President of United States. They might not always look the part right off the bat. And they might just surprise you if you give them the chance.
(Narendra Modi): Thank you Barack
Himani from Ludhiana has also asked me this question – did I ever imagine I would reach this high office?
No. I never imagined it. Because, as Barack said, I come from a very ordinary family. But for a long time, I have been telling everyone, never dream of becoming something. If you wish to dream, dream of doing something. When we do something, we get satisfaction, and also get inspiration to do something new. If we only dream of becoming something, and cannot fulfil the dream, then we only get disappointed.
And therefore, I never dreamt of becoming something. Even today, I have no dream of becoming something. But I do dream of doing something. Serving Mother India, serving 125 crore Indians, there can be no greater dream than this. That is what I have to do. I am thankful to Himani.
There is a question for Barack from Omprakash. Omprakash is studying Sanskrit at JNU. He belongs to Jhunjunu, Rajasthan. Om Prakash is convener of special centre for Sanskrit Studies in JNU.
Well this is a very interesting question. His question is, the youth of the new generation is a global citizen. He is not limited by time or boundaries. In such a situation what should be the approach by our leadership, governments as well as societies at large.
I think this is a very important question. When I look at this generation that is coming up, they are exposed to the world in ways that you and I could hardly imagine. They have the world at their fingertips, literally. They can, using their mobile phone, get information and images from all around the world and that’s extraordinarily powerful. And what that means, I think is that, governments and leaders cannot simply try to govern, or rule, by a top-down strategy.
But rather have to reach out to people in an inclusive way, and an open way, and a transparent way. And engage in a dialogue with citizens, about the direction of their country. And one of the great things about India and the United States is that we are both open societies.
And we have confidence and faith that when citizens have information, and there is a vigorous debate, that over time even though sometimes democracy is frustrating, the best decisions and the most stable societies emerge and the most prosperous societies emerge. And new ideas are constantly being exchanged. And technology today I think facilitates that, not just within countries, but across countries.
And so, I have much greater faith in India and the United States, countries that are open information societies, in being able to succeed and thrive in this New Information Age; than closed societies that try to control the information that citizens receive. Because ultimately that’s no longer possible.
Information will flow inevitably, one way or the other, and we want to make sure we are fostering a healthy debate and a good conversation between all peoples.
(Narendra Modi): Omprakash wants me too, to answer the question that has been asked to Barack.
Barack has given a very good answer. It is inspiring. I will only say, that once upon a time, there were people inspired primarily by the Communist ideology. They gave a call: Workers of the world, Unite. This slogan lasted for several decades. I believe, looking at the strength and reach of today's youth, I would say, Youth, Unite the world. I believe they have the strength and they can do it.
The next question is from CA Pikashoo Mutha from Mumbai, and he asks me, which American leader has inspired you
When I was young, I used to see Kennedy's pictures in Indian newspapers. His personality was very impressive. But your question is, who has inspired me. I liked reading as a child. And I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin. He lived in the eighteenth century. And he was not an American President. But his biography is so inspiring – how a person can intelligently try to change his life.
If we feel excessively sleepy, how can we reduce that?
If we feel like eating too much, how can we work towards eating less?
If people get upset with you that cannot meet them, because of the pressure of work, then how to solve this problem?
He has addressed such issues in his biography. And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin's biography. Even today, it inspires me. And Benjamin Franklin had a multi-dimensional personality.
He was a politician, he was a political scientist, he was a social worker, he was a diplomat. And he came from an ordinary family. He could not even complete his education. But till today, his thoughts have an impact on American life. I find his life truly inspiring.
And I tell you too, if you read his biography, you will find ways to transform your life too. And he has talked about simple things. So I feel you will be inspired as much as I have been.
There is a question for Barack, from Monika Bhatia.
(Barack Obama): Well the question is "As leaders of two major economies, what inspires you and makes you smile at the end of a bad day at work?”
And that is a very good question. I say sometimes, that the only problems that come to my desk are the ones that nobody else solves. If they were easy questions, then somebody else would have solved them before they reached me. So there are days when it’s tough and frustrating. And that’s true in Foreign Affairs. That is true in Domestic Affairs. But I tell you what inspires me, and I don’t know Prime Minister if you share this view -- almost every day I meet somebody who tells me, "You made a difference in my life.”
So they’ll say, "The Health-Care law that you passed, saved my child who didn’t have health insurance.” And they were able to get an examination from a Physician, and they caught an early tumour, and now he is doing fine.
Or they will say "You helped me save my home during the economic crisis.”
Or they’ll say, "I couldn’t afford college, and the program you set up has allowed me to go to the university.”
And sometimes they are thanking you for things that you did four or five years ago. Sometimes they are thanking you for things you don’t even remember, or you’re not thinking about that day.
But it is a reminder of what you said earlier, which is, if you focus on getting things done as opposed to just occupying an office or maintaining power, then the satisfaction that you get is unmatched. And the good thing about service is that anybody can do it. 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, and helps get through the challenges and difficulties that we all have.
Because obviously we are not the only people with bad days at work. 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.
(Narendra Modi): Indeed Barack has spoken words from the heart (Mann Ki Baat). Whatever position we may hold, we are human too. Simple things can inspire us. I also wish to narrate an experience. For many years, I was like an ascetic. I got food at other people's homes.
Whoever invited me, used to feed me as well. Once a family invited me over for a meal, repeatedly. I would not go, because I felt they are too poor, and if I go to eat at their place, I will become a burden on them.
But eventually, I had to bow to their request and love. And I went to eat a meal at their home. It was a small hut, where we sat down to eat. They offered me roti made of bajra (millet), and mik. Their young child was looking at the milk. I felt, the child has never even seen milk. So I gave that small bowl of milk to the child. And he drank it within seconds. His family members were angry with him. And I felt that perhaps that child has never had any milk, apart from his mother's milk. And maybe, they had bought milk so that I could have a good meal.
This incident inspired me a lot. A poor person living in a hut could think so much about my well-being. So I should devote my life to their service. So these are the things that serve as inspiration. And Barack has also spoken about what can touch the heart.
I am thankful to Barack, he has given so much time. And I am thankful to my countrymen for listening to Mann Ki Baat. I know radio reaches every home and every lane of India. And this Mann Ki Baat, this special Mann Ki Baat will echo forever.
I have an idea. I share it with you. There should be an e-book made of the talk between Barack and me today. I hope the organizers of Mann Ki Baat will release this e-book. And to you all, who have listened to Mann Ki Baat, I also say, do participate in this. And the best hundred thoughts that emerge out of this, will also be added to this e-book. And I want you to write to us on Twitter, on Facebook, or online, using the hashtag #YesWeCan.
• Eliminate Poverty - #YesWeCan
• Quality Healthcare to All - #YesWeCan
• Youth empowered with Education - #YesWeCan
• Jobs for All - #YesWeCan
• End to Terrorism - #YesWeCan
• Global Peace and Progress - #YesWeCan
I want you to send your thoughts, experiences and feelings after listening to Mann Ki Baat. From them, we will select the best hundred, and we will add them to the book containing the talk that Barack and I have had. And I believe, this will truly become, the Mann Ki Baat of us all.
Once again, a big thank you to Barack. And to all of you. Barack's visit to India on this pious occasion of January 26, is a matter of pride for me and for the country.
Thank you very much.