Namaste India! In all likelihood that will be silver-tongued Barack Obama’s opening line when he addresses the Indian parliament next week. But to help him pronounce Hindi words correctly will be a teleprompter which the US president uses ever so often for his hypnotising speeches.
According to parliament sources, a technical team from the US has helped the Lok Sabha secretariat install textbook-sized panes of glass around the podium that will give cues to Obama on his prepared remarks to 780 Indian MPs on the evening of Nov 8.
It will be a 20-minute speech at Parliament House’s Central Hall that has been witness to some historic events, including first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s “tryst with destiny” speech when India became independent.
Obama will make history for more than one reason during the Nov 6-9 visit. This will be the first time a teleprompter will be used in the nearly 100-feet high dome-shaped hall that has portraits of eminent national leaders adorning its walls.
Indian politicians are known for making impromptu long speeches and perhaps that is why some parliament officials, who did not wish to be named, sounded rather surprised with the idea of a teleprompter for Obama.
“We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact,” an official, who did not wish to be identified because of security restrictions, said.
Obama is known to captivate audiences with his one-liners that sound like extempore and his deep gaze. But few in India know that the US president always carries the teleprompter with him wherever he speaks.
Teleprompters, also called autocue or telescript, are mostly used by TV anchors to read out texts scrolling on a screen and attached to a camera in front of them.
Parliament officials have had a busy week preparing for a red carpet welcome for Obama and his wife Michelle. Parliament House these days looks fresh with a new coat of paint, new carpeting and new green plants in mud vases decorating the corridors.
Sources said the Obamas will pose for a photograph with Indian leaders at one of the three well laid-out courtyards that have lush green lawns and fountains.
On the dais in the Central Hall will be Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The sources said the event will be an hour-long affair and will start with Ansari’s welcome address and end with a vote of thanks by Meira Kumar after the US president’s address.
The Obamas would sign the Golden Book, the visitor’s diary in parliament, before leaving the eight-decade old building.
“Thank god they won’t eat anything or have tea or coffee from our canteen. We would have to go through a tough security drill otherwise,” quipped an employee.
Security managers in parliament also had a tough job for the high profile visit even as the house is already highly protected following a terrorist attack in 2001.
A team of US security officials, including from the CIA, were in the Indian capital and visited the complex to review security measures to be taken during the parliament event.
Parliament security officials have decided that barring special invitees and former MPs, no visitor would be allowed inside when Obama addresses the MPs.
Only journalists who have permanent radio-frequency passes would be allowed inside the Central Hall to cover the event.