A lot can happen over dinner is what the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) believes and is preparing not only its diplomats but also their spouses in the art of entertaining.
Considering that many a hit or a miss may happen between the cup and the lip at diplomatic functions, the MEA is working out a “more structured” programme to train IFS officers’ wives on playing the perfect host at official parties. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is the nursery for newbie diplomats, where the tricks of geopolitics — writing a cable to choosing the right cutlery at formal dinners are taught. So far, probationers have been initiated into the art of hosting a party only at a half-day module during a formal lunch or dinner held at a five-star hotel. Spouses are only invited to join them to pick up tips, pun intended.
“We are planning to hold structured training for diplomatic spouses on entertainment and hospitality,” said a senior MEA official.
The FSI has already asked the state-run India Tourism Development Corporation for suggestions to create an expansive course, lasting about a week or more. It will involve all aspects of putting together a successful event: from creating a perfect menu to the right ambience, which is both sophisticated and ethnic. “It’s about showcasing the best of India in a subtle manner, through food, settings or décor,” said the official. The instructors will be a cocktail of professionals from the hospitality industry, as well as wives of retired ambassadors.
At foreign postings, throwing a successful big party or a small informal dinner is an enviable skill. “These are occasions when important people from the host country are invited into a more relaxed environment,” said the official.
The spouse’s job is two-fold difficult: keeping cultural sensitivities intact and the logistics of preparing an Indian feast in a foreign country, that too within the confines of a monthly allowance which is often inadequate for a worthy spread. The first students of the new course will be the spouses of the 2012 IFS probationers. “If required, we may even consider training of spouses of first-time Heads of Missions,” said the official. Pass the salt, please.