WASHINGTON: Gift chocolates, red bandhani cloth covered tables with gold cutlery, military bands, menu catered by Washington’s top Indian restaurant - the State Department went all out for a luncheon hosted by US Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry for PM Narendra Modi.
As the luminaries of the capital city looked on, both of them with humour and sincerity praised the success of Modi’s visit on Tuesday afternoon -- the last day of the four-day- long trip. “I’m forced to admit that no matter how warm our welcome here today, we’re never going to be able to top your rock star reception at Madison Square Garden,” Kerry said, as Modi also laughed along with the audience. “Billy Joel called me this morning to make sure you hadn’t taken his regular gig there,” he added to guffaws, while the PM kept smiling.
He referred to the US and India as two friends, who a matchmaker believes are made for each other. “And you sort of have oh, you have so much in common. If only you’d spend more time together,” he said.
Biden pointed out that he had an Indian connection through an ancestor -- an English merchant who settled down in India. “So there are three Indian Biden families in Mumbai. Mr Prime Minister, I am coming home with you,” he said.
He quoted Irish poet and Nobel Laureate William Butler Yeats, who he noted was a great admirer of (Gurudeb) Rabindranath Tagore, (a Nobel Laureate himself). Biden said that Yeats’ words for Tagore could be used for India today: “A diverse community humming with dynamism and energy, a great and ancient society reinventing itself to be able to thrive in the 21st century”.
Modi himself used an interesting analogy that both had to take extra steps to bring together the different systems. “You use a system which is 120-volts, and we use a 220-volt system in India. So 120 and 220 - when you have to bring them together and the difference in the energy which is there, so we’ll have to undertake the necessary steps in order to bring it together, and I’m sure we’ll succeed in it,” he said.
The audience included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and industrialists Mukesh Ambani and Anand Mahindra.
The entire sit-down dinner had been catered by chef Vivek Sunderam of DC’s Rasika restaurant -- one of its most successful restaurants.
The dessert was quite special -- with two glasses, one in the colours of the Indian Tricolour and another in Americans hues. It was called the “friendship parfait”.
Further, all guests got to take with them a sweet return gift -- chocolates manufactured by an Indian-American firm.