They came, they saw, they charmed. US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle dazzled Delhi’s movers and shakers at a traditional Republic Day reception at the sprawling lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday.
The first couple was the centre of attention at President Pranab Mukherjee’s at home function, engaging with ministers and going beyond exchanging formal pleasantries to add a personal touch in their interaction with guests.
Food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal seemed particularly impressed, gushing about her impression of the Obamas. “He heads the most powerful country in the world and yet both of them are so grounded,” she said.
When Badal asked the US President what he was taking back from India, he took out a statuette of Ganesh from his pocket and said, “I’m taking this back.” Badal then reminded Obama he had missed out on Amritsar’s Golden Temple during his last visit.
“Yes, lots of things are pending,” said the US President. They were joined by Michelle at that point. Badal asked her to take their daughters to the Sikh shrine the next time. “We really want to bring them,” the US first lady assured her.
While Obama was dressed in a formal dark suit, Michelle chose an off-white floral dress. They were shown around by Modi, attired in a cream-coloured kurta, matched with a dark orange sleeveless jacket. Over a thousand of the Capital’s powerful and elite – ministers, envoys, diplomats and top government officials -- had gathered at the sprawling lawns of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asked Michelle how she found the Republic Day parade. “Oh, lovely, awesome,” the US first lady beamed.
When he met environment minister Prakash Javadekar, Obama quipped, “This is the climate year.” Minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha told the American President, “You should support the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.”
Union minister Piyush Goyal and his wife also seemed to have struck a chord with the Obamas and were seen chatting and laughing with the US first couple.
When skill development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy sought to elaborate Modi’s skill push to Obama, the US President replied, “Good that you have started it. In the United States, we are going all hammer and tongs about it.”
At a banquet at the President’s house on Sunday evening, Badal had asked Obama if he would dress in a trademark Modi kurta for Republic Day, minutes after the US President had said he would like to wear the sleeveless jacket, calling the PM a style icon.
“Yes, if I get hold of a tailor,” Obama responded.
“Your wishes are our command. We will get the tailor,” Badal had replied, drawing a smile from the US President.
Though the US first couple added to the sheen at Monday’s ceremony, most guests were left disappointed as the President’s security detail vetoed his plans of roaming around the manicured lawns and interacting with the people. Though the Mughal Garden was decked in newly-purchased gleaming red carpets, Obama confined himself to the VVIP enclosure.