Every dish served at the state banquet hosted in the honour of President Pranab Mukherjee was delicious. The etiquette was spot on. The music played in the background was soothing.
The ambience at Durbar Hall in Raj Bhavan simply floored the guests on Wednesday. It was a lifetime experience for many.
Altogether 640 people were on the guest list. Of them, 40, including ministers and senior bureaucrats, got the opportunity to dine with Mukherjee. Seven of them shared the table with the President.
The lucky seven were Legislative Council chairman Awadhesh Narayan Singh, Patna High Court Chief Justice Rekha M. Doshit, governor’s wife Nibha Konwar, Governor Devanand Konwar, chief minister Nitish Kumar, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary.
An eight-course menu was served to the 40 guests who dined with Mukherjee. (See graphic)
A day after the banquet, Singh was delighted. He told The Telegraph: “I am proud of sharing the dining table with the President. Very few people get such an opportunity in life.”
Requesting anonymity, a senior JD(U) leader and cabinet minister who got the opportunity to dine at the state banquet, said: “It was a great experience for me and we were treated royally. You can understand the meaning of the first formal invitation to attend the state banquet. It is impossible to compare it with any other invitation.”
Asked about the way Mukherjee was received at the banquet, the minister said: “I do not remember the exact time but it was past eight when President Pranab Mukherjee arrived at the venue with the governor. We all, including the chief minister, were sitting before his arrival.
“As soon as Mukherjee arrived, all the guests stood up in his honour and the National Anthem was played. Thereafter, the chief minister went to his table and shook hands with him.”
He said: “The best part in the banquet was the way we introduced ourselves to the President on the instruction of the chief minister. Nitish called our names according to seniority and we walked up to Mukherjee, sitting at the centre, one by one.
“We introduced ourselves standing in front of him. After each minister introduced him/herself, the President smiled and shook his head.”
Asked about the sitting arrangement, the minister said: “Who will sit where was decided in advance. Even the name of the guest was written on each chair. On every dining table, there were three guests. Two persons were deputed to serve food at each table.
“The President took the first bite, followed by the governor. Only after them, we started eating,” the minister said.
“As soon as the dining session started, the military band started playing soothing music in the background. The band members were not visible,” said the minister.
Talking about the way the food was served, another JD(U) leader and cabinet minister, who was at the banquet, said: “As the food was prepared in courses, we were confused about what to eat and what not. Actually, all the dishes were presented in such a way that you could not stop yourself from tasting them. Many guests were even counting how many dishes were served.”
The minister said: “The food affair lasted for almost two-and-a-half hours. After a gap of 10 to 15 minutes, new dishes were served.”
After the banquet was over, the National Anthem was played again. Asked about the taste of the food, a senior BJP leader and cabinet minister said: “All the dishes were delicious. In fact, for the first time in my life I tried such dishes. Though all the dishes were vegetarian, they were wonderful. But I must say that more than the food, the ambience moved us the most.”