Prime Minister Narendra Modi kept a date with history when he checked into the presidential suite that has hosted every US head of state since Herbert Hoover in 1931 at the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel.
The living room of the suite, architecturally evocative of the White House, has a decorated fireplace where a rocking chair of former president John F Kennedy is kept, apart from wall sconces donated by his successor Richard Nixon and a personal desk of General Donald MacArthur.
Modi is staying on the 35th floor of the hotel, with pictures of former US presidents from Harry S Truman to George W Bush adorning his suite. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will stay in the same hotel.
Modi’s might not be the most expensive of the 26 presidential style suites in the hotel but is no less celebrated. It has hosted Emperor Hirohito of Japan, the Saudi King and Queen Elizabeth II among other global luminaries.
The suite, number 35 A, comes with a foyer, a living room, a dining room for 10 — dinnerware complete with a bald eagle motif — a kitchen and a boudoir.
The suite is not known for displaying any original work of art but books, among others, by William Shakespeare, Homer and JK Rowling — the Harry Potter creator stayed here, too — embellish the walls of the living room.
The suite’s 2,245-sq ft living space was red one in Georgian style in 1969, presumably to suit presidential tastes. Presidents Hoover and Eisenhower, the first US president to visit India, spent their last years at the hotel.
Incidentally, president Barack Obama has changed a decades- old tradition of US heads of state staying in this hotel by opting out this year.
Unlike last year, Obama is not staying at the Waldorf Astoria, acquired by Chinese investors, for apparent fear of spying when he arrives to address the United Nations General Assembly.
Obama has instead chosen the New York Palace hotel that hosted Modi last year and also where former prime minister Manmohan Singh stayed.