“It looks like a podium”, said one mystified lawmaker. “Where do they place the paper?” asked another.

In India, politicians generally speak extemporaneously or from notes or text written on paper. The common perception, explained lawmaker Sanjay Nirupam of Mumbai, is that the really good speakers don’t need to have text in front of them.

Regardless, lawmakers in the packed hall listened to Obama’s speech in mesmerized silence, punctuated by frequent applause.