When a President rolled back the red carpet

Ram Nath Kovind removed it to give his ASEAN guests a glimpse of Rashtrapati Bhavan’s grand flooring

January 26, 2018 10:27 pm | Updated January 27, 2018 06:35 pm IST - New Delhi

 The President at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday. *

The President at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday. *

When President Ram Nath Kovind received dignitaries from the 10 ASEAN nations at the Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan, he rolled back the red carpet.

The President wanted the carpet removed to help the visiting dignitaries admire the rich marble flooring of the Durbar Hall, on Thursday. This spectacular area has witnessed historic occasions such as the swearing-in of the first Council of Ministers in independent India.

“There was a red carpet on the staircase leading to the Durbar Hall, but the President, while inspecting the preparations, wanted it removed so that the guests could see the flooring,’ said a Rashtrapati Bhavan official.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan website explains why: “The gleaming marble floor with bold geometrical patterns adds to the majestic aura of this Hall. The white marble was obtained from Makrana and Alwar, grey marble from Marwar, green from Baroda and Ajmer, and pink from Alwar, Makrana and Haripas. However, the deep chocolate colour variety of marble used for the Durbar Hall was imported specially from Italy.”

Beyond the flooring, attention was devoted to every small detail. Hosting no less than 10 heads of state and government for an official banquet and an ASEAN Leaders’ Retreat, Rashtrapati Bhavan officials had to finalise the kind of music to be played at the banquet, and choose a light menu to help the leaders go on with post-lunch meetings.

High Commissions and the embassies of ASEAN countries were requested to send a preferred playlist of instrumental music. Only Myanmar, Brunei and Indonesia gave one.

Among them was a popular Hindi number, Dhoom Machcha De, from the movie Dhoom . “It is a very popular song in Myanmar,” said an official.

The lunch wasn’t just about good taste. “It was an Indian lunch with a South East Asian touch. So a lot of lemon grass went into the prawn and curry dishes. But one also had to ensure that it wasn’t rich, spicy and heavy, as the leaders had to attend meetings soon after,” the official said.

Though the ASEAN leaders didn’t stay there, they were allotted a room each to freshen up, and the ones accompanied by spouses were given suites.

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