San Jose: In an emotionally charged town hall event at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was convinced that cities of the future would be settled around optical fibre networks, and not rivers or highways.
He also said that governments now have the opportunity to correct themselves “every five minutes” thanks to social media and not every five years like before.
Modi, however, struggled to control his emotions after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked him about this mother. “My mother is not educated but keeps in touch with world events through news on TV,” he said, before pausing to wipe tears while speaking of her washing utensils at other homes years ago to provide for the family.
“There are thousands of mothers throughout India who made great sacrifices for children, family. I thank them all,” he said.
The event also saw Zuckerberg’s parents make a rare public appearance, and Modi sought them out in the audience before congratulating them for giving the world “such a wonderful son”.
The Prime Minister took five other questions from a pre-selected list, including Vir Kashyap, one of the founders of Bangalore-based Babajobs.
Modi told Kashyap that he was happy people like him had come back to India from Silicon Valley and hoped other young Indians would follow suit. “My effort is to connect all 600,000 villages with optical fiber networks in the next five years,” he said.
Replying to a question from Facebook employee T S Khurana on the ease of doing business in India, Modi said: “It is easy to turn a scooter, but not a train with 40 bogeys. This is such a big country, changes are constant and widespread. You will see the cumulative effect.”
There were occasional chants of “Modi, Modi” and shouts of “Vande Mataram” among the 800-strong crowd which braved the nippy California morning for a couple of hours before Modi arrived at the open-air stage.
Among the audience was Sudeep Padiyar, employed with a tech firm in Santa Clara, who said he was impressed by Modi’s speech but was expecting more questions. Padiyar, whose wife works in Facebook, said the fact that so many people turned up for a private event shows how popular Modi is and how much hope there is among Indians.
However, Padiyar added that “people in Silicon Valley are used to things happening quickly” and that he would love to see “more things happening on the ground” in India.