The scene is something out of a fantasy. Acres and acres of gardens, criss-cossed by canals of clear water, stretch into the near distance. Throughout are hundreds, maybe thousands, of votive candles set in patterns of orange, white and lavender flower petals.
The score of the pre-dinner mingling is the muffled sound of hundreds of conversations, fountains, and the crackle and bang of fireworks from distant Diwali celebrations.
The US delegation lines up along one edge of a neatly trimmed lawn just behind the palace, the Indian delegation along the other. At 8:15pm, horns sound and guards in high black boots, red coats, carrying flags escort in the first couple, and President Patil and her husband. The four stand on a small patch of red carpet beneath canvas covering set high on poles.
A band begins playing the national anthem, and the first couple, and some in the delegation, place their hands over their hearts. The Indian national anthem follows.
Then, one by one, the 180 guests – military men in uniform, women in silk saris and gowns, executives and cabinet secretaries in dark suits – are announced, then pass by and shake hands with the first couple and often bow, peaked-hands together at chest level, to President Patil. It takes a half hour to work through the line.
After shaking hands with the heads of state, the guests walk to a large white tent set among the gardens, candles shimmering around it. The heads of state follow, taking seats a long head table with flowers like a spine running down the center. In between the head table and stages where Indian musicians play is a flower-petal pattern with the word “Welcome” around the side . . . One line from POTUS toast, after he listed some of the “things we have learned on this trip.” “And we have learned that no matter how hard I try, Michelle will always be a better dancer than I am.”
h/t to the White House pool report.