HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Obama's unexpected invitation

Rajesh Krishan   April 02, 2013
First Published: 09:31 IST(2/4/2013) | Last Updated: 09:33 IST(2/4/2013)

In November last year when I shot off a letter to Barack Obama to congratulate him on his reelection as the President of the United States, little did I know the turn of events that was to follow. I received a thank you letter back from the White House last month, four months after I wrote to him, saying that I was among the top 10 people to congratulate him on his second term. The letter, embossed and hand-signed by the President, came in a premium-grade envelope with stars and stripes on it.


The letter was an invitation by the President of the United States to this writer to attend a state dinner at the White House alongside his family and the country's dignitaries. The White House also offered free flight tickets and an accommodation in a five-star hotel.

It's not everyday that you get an invitation to dine with the President of the United States, so I hurriedly applied for the visa, which was granted to me in no time. The embassy even waived my visa fees. I boarded my flight from New Delhi and was received at Dulles Airport (IAD) by the White House staff, who drove me in a luxury car to a hotel in Washington DC.

After a day's rest and some sightseeing in and around Washington DC, finally, the big moment came. I entered the most-watched building in the US: the White House. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the grand mansion represents a beautiful building steeped in history and character. It was refreshing to see the sprawling Rose Garden and, of course, the neo-classical federal-style architecture of the grand mansion left me in awe.

Walking into the President's dining room, I had butterflies in my stomach as I was told that the President's family members had already arrived. As I entered the hall, I was welcomed by First Lady Michelle Obama and secretary of state John Kerry. I also had the fortune to speak with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who was sitting right across me.

In the brief conversation I had with Michelle, she told me that the White House cooks had prepared a lavish line-up of dishes especially in my honour, and that many of the ingredients used in preparing the dinner were derived from her White House garden. I also conversed with the President's daughters, Sasha and Malia.

I was treated not only to a fine feast but some great music as well. Providing entertainment was Grammy and Academy award-winning musician AR Rehman, who was especially invited to add Indian flavour to the evening. Oscar-winning actor George Clooney made the guest list, as did the billionaire American hotelier of Indian origin, Vikram Chatwal.

Barack Obama, who was wearing his signature navy-blue suit, was the last to come to the table. After greeting everyone, he came straight to me and sat beside me. He extended his hand to offer a handshake when my phone suddenly buzzed. I excused myself to read the message. It was an SMS from a friend, saying "Happy April Fool's Day!"

comment Note: By posting your comments here you agree to the terms and conditions of
blog comments powered by Disqus

more from Chandigarh

Kin roots for Ambika in campaigning

Family members of Congress candidate from Anandpur Sahib constituency Ambika Soni, 71, are pitching in for her campaign by dividing the work among them. Her 80-year old husband takes care of visitors at their house in Sector 9, Chandigarh, while her 46-year old son, who is a businessman, develops and executes strategies to woo voters.

Copyright © 2014 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved