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When I was growing up, a familiar and much-loved figure in the lives of many middle-class Indian children was the elderly relative or family friend who traveled abroad and brought back wondrous stories and treats: Toblerone chocolate, Adidas sneakers, tales of machines that delivered cans of Coke or of people who drank wine without getting drunk.

The weekend before last, I was reminded of this magician-figure — such characters have been in increasingly shorter supply with the liberalization of India’s economy two decades ago — by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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