The delegation accompanying him (scribes included) savoured the choicest fare laid out, but President Kalam survived on frugal meals during the long flights to and back from Europe. "His preference is for light South Indian meals," said R Balakrishnan, master chef on board Air India - I - the special Presidential craft.
"Vadai Kulumbu, mixed vegetable thoran, Kirai Kuttu, Pavakkai Vuruwal, Sambhar, Rasam and plain boiled rice," these were some items served to the President. For the assemblage of the officials and media delegation, there was a wide variety from the Mughlai or Indian food together with a picking of fresh and dry fruits. And, of course, the best of the wines and spirits!
Topoliatis Lukas is not an unusual man because he is of Austrio-Greek parentage running an Indian hotel in Athens. Also not because he is one of India’s best unofficial ambassadors in Greece and intends to start new Indian hotels in Austria and India.
Lukas is truly a remarkable man he has a continuing love affair with India despite the enormous difficulties in obtaining a visa each time he intends to visit India. "They want to know my entire family history each time and I have to submit reams upon reams of documents to obtain a visa," he said.
Ideally, Lukas would like to be in India every three months, but he is increasingly finding that to be a difficult target to meet because of the bureaucratic wrangles. Lukas’s hotel is called "Iskander". "Iskander, Sikander and Skandar are all the names of Alexander the Great; they mean the same thing," he said.
Well, if there is real Indian-ness that is to be found somewhere in Athens, it is at Iskander: Classical Rajasthani furniture, paintings of a pantheon of Indian Gods on the walls; Indian music wafting through the stereo sounds and - of course - the choice of the Indian cuisine. Iskander is just a year old - a hotel that Lukas started after he sold off another restaurant being run by him - called the Jaipur Palace.
The second occasion he declared his intents to recite a poem, one thought that he had composed another one. He had used up the flight time of eight hours between New Delhi and Strasbourg last Tuesday quite creatively: Composing a poem.
"A message from Mother India to the European Union" was the title of the poem he recited at the completion of his address at European Parliament. President Kalam recited the same poem at a banquet lunch hosted at Athens by the Greek President Karlos Papoulias on Friday.