Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday assumed the form of an obedient pupil as he returned to his alma mater five decades after his graduation to receive an honorary degree with a stirring speech outlining his vision for a more egalitarian world.
And there was no doubt that the scholar-politician conquered every single heart in the historic Senate Hall of the university where the clapping that followed after Manmohan Singh was formally introduced to the audience went on and on, bringing smiles on the faces of his wife Gursharan and daughter Amrit Kaur who, like everyone else, watched him in sheer admiration.
"It was one of the most generous receptions anyone has received in Cambridge," Neil Hudson, the university vice marshal, said after the hour-long ceremony where Manmohan Singh got from Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and also the chancellor, a honorary doctorate in law.
Manmohan Singh's stirring speech, calling for a world economy that does not sacrifice the interests of the poor, brought another round of prolonged and thunderous applause that continued even after he occupied his chair, embarrassing him to a point where he stood up and bowed twice to the gathering in a bid to stop the well deserved ovation.
Throughout the sombre function, conducted entirely in Latin except for Manmohan Singh's speech which was in English, the man who passed out of St. John's College in Cambridge in 1957, the prime minister was as obedient and quiet as a good student could be, sitting quietly on the chair, not even once looking at his wife or daughter seated barely 15 feet away diagonally to his right.
He had a deadpan expression throughout, smiling only once when he badly wanted the applause to stop.
The Duke of Edinburgh paid fulsome tributes to Manmohan Singh, who in his own speech described himself as a "simple young Indian".