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When President Patil played the perfect host

U.S. President Barack Obama toasts President Prathiba Patil at a State dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.

U.S. President Barack Obama toasts President Prathiba Patil at a State dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Charles Dharapak

From the menu to the ambience, every little detail of the banquet held for United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Mughal Gardens of the Rashtrapati Bhavan here on Monday was overseen by President Pratibha Patil.

From suggesting a pineapple halwa (pudding) and a puran poli (a sweet dish) for sweetening the palate to the use of traditional coloured rice flour for making the rangoli (art work), the President ensured that the banquet encapsulated the essence of Indian tradition and hospitality.

The pathways leading up to the Mughal Gardens and to the meeting room where the dignitaries met were suitably decked with strings of fragrant rajnigandha (a flower) and the forecourts lined with hundreds of diyas (earthen lamps).

Over 50 guests from an elite cross-section of society were invited to dine with the U.S. President and his spouse. The guest list included the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Ratan Tata, Chanda Kochar, Mukesh Ambani and his wife Nita, Rahul Bajaj and Sunil Bharti Mittal.

According to sources, Ms. Patil not only suggested dishes for the grand feast but also sought details about the décor. “The President took a keen interest in the preparations. She wanted the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan lit up and traditional rangolis made to welcome the dignitaries,” said a source.

The President was as particular about the taste as she was about the service. “As the banquet was in the open, Ms. Patil was very particular about how the food should be served to the guests and that it be served hot,” the source said, adding, “She usually takes interest in all such functions, but since this banquet was not inside the Durbar Hall, the usual venue, she was keen that everything should be perfect.”

And while the naval band belted melodies from Hindi films including Awara Hoon, Chotti Si Asha and ever-popular Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder numbers, the guests feasted on a menu that comprised vegetarian clear soup, achari fish tikkas, chicken shammi kebabs, palak papri chaat, pista murgh among other things and an assortment of breads and desserts.

“The First Family of the U.S. also sampled samosas with their hands and Mr. Obama said he really liked them,” said the source.

A cultural programme that included performances by the Shillong Choir Group and folk artistes was also part of the evening.

The U.S. President was presented a bust of Mahatma Gandhi and two books — The Life Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer and Gandhi by Peter Ruhe.

PTI reports:

Mr. Obama thanked the Indian leadership for their “extraordinary expression of friendship” between India and the United States.

“I propose a toast knowing that our ties subsist because they are not of iron or steel or even of gold but of silken chords of human spirit,” observed Mr. Obama, as he said “cheers” looking to Ms. Patil. “One thing I observed during my visit was that India is doing so well because it has so many strong women leaders.”

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 11:10:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/When-President-Patil-played-the-perfect-host/article15679518.ece

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