BY RATTAN MALL
FIFTEEN years ago, when I was assistant producer for South Asian programs at Toronto’s CFMT-TV, one of my staff members recounted how he had managed to get a quick interview in Toronto with the visiting Italian President many years ago because he greeted him in Italian, which he had picked up during his stay in Italy.
The Italian President was so happy to hear his language spoken by the reporter that he walked over to him and answered all his questions, ignoring the rest of the media.
So I told our photographer Chandra Bodalia, who is Gujarati and speaks the same language as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also Gujarati, to try and grab his attention by speaking to him in Gujarati if he got the chance.
Bodalia responded that with all the tight security, he was sure he wouldn’t get a chance. But I told him that one never knows what might happen.
When I called Bodalia around 4 p.m. to find out what was happening at Vancouver’s Ross Street Gurdwara where Bodalia and the rest of the photographers were waiting outside, he laughed and told me that the tactic that I had suggested worked.
I said: “What do you mean? Did you manage to speak to Modi in Gujarati?”
Bodalia said: “Sort of.”
I asked him what he meant by that and he replied that Modi was in such a hurry since he was running behind schedule that he just walked by without showing his face and so, remembering what I had told him, he shouted some Gujarati greetings to Modi.
That made Modi turn around and wave to the photographers.
Man, was I so thrilled!
And Bodalia was really proud that all the others managed to photograph Modi because of that tactic.