The Sardar & The President: The Obamas Fete India's First Family <small>by JOSH WINGROVE</small> <!-- <small>November 25th, 2009</small>--> In a green affair featuring locally grown food and held on the White House lawn, U.S President Barack Obama welcomed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his first official state dinner Tuesday night (November 24, 2009). The black-tie gala was seen as an important gesture of co-operation between the two countries. It was held under a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, in keeping with a theme of "the Obamas' dedication to green and sustainable elements," according to an official White House summary. The food included vegetables grown in the White House garden; a meatless entree to satisfy Sardar Manmohan Singh, a vegetarian; and gift bags that included a jar of honey from White House beehives. Locally grown magnolias lined the dinner tent. WHY INDIA? In welcoming the crowd to his first state dinner as President, Mr. Obama praised the relationship between India and the United States, the world's two largest democracies. "Tonight, under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership, the bond of friendship between our people," he told the crowd. He credited a "movement led by giants like Gandhi and King, which are the reason both of us can stand here tonight." Mr. Manmohan Singh pledged continued co-operation between the countries and heaped praise on Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. "You do us and the people of India great honour by this wonderful gesture on your part," he said of being selected for the first state dinner. "We are overwhelmed by the warmth of your hospitality, the courtesy you have extended to us personally, and the grace and charm of the first lady," Mr. Manmohan Singh said. "You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity, and equal opportunity." After brief speeches, Mr. Obama thanked the crowd and Mr. Manmohan Singh, to whom he quietly said, smiling: "Finally you can sit down and eat." GUESTS The five-course meal was prepared by Marcus Samuelsson, an award-winning chef who has apprenticed across Europe and the United States and was named one of "The Great Chefs of America" by the Culinary Institute of America. The meal began with potato and eggplant salad and White House arugula, and added a red lentil soup soon after. A choice of entrees included roasted potato dumplings with tomato chutney, chick peas and okra, or a meal of green curry prawns. In a nod to the upcoming American Thanksgiving, a pumpkin pie tart was among a number of dessert courses. Ms. Obama worked with Mr. Samuelsson and White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford to develop "a menu that reflects the best of American cuisine, continues this White House's commitment to serving fresh, sustainable and regional food, and honours the culinary excellence and flavours that are present in Indian cuisine." The desserts were garnished with mint and lemon verbena grown in the White House garden. ATTIRE While India's First Lady, Sardarni Gursharan Kaur, wore a traditional sari, Ms. Obama's golden, strapless gown also had an Indian flavour. Naeem Khan, who designed Ms. Obama's dress, said the gown took three weeks of work by about 40 people to make. "It's so beautiful, totally handmade," explained Mr. Khan. In addition to the silver-sequined gown, Ms. Obama wore a matching wrap, a stack of bangle bracelets on her wrist and dangling earrings. "I think she looks fabulous," said Mary Tomer, author of the new book Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy . "She walked out in something that's figure-flattering and chic. Naeem's work is known for glamour and embellishment and this dress seems to embody that. She's sparkling and radiant." Mr. Obama stuck to a classic tuxedo. "I often feel Obama's suits are too big on him, but I think he got a new tux," said Hal Rubenstein, fashion director for InStyle magazine. GUESTS The list of 320 invitees included political heavyweights, Hollywood moguls, Sikh-American and Indo-American leaders. Vice-President Joe Biden, Senator John Kerry, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a cast of Democrats joining the President. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana were among the Republicans invited to attend. CBS host Katie Couric, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times and CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta were among the media figures attending. Directors Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan were the biggest Hollywood names, with Deepak Chopra, Amrit Singh, Analjit Singh, Balwinder Singh, Mohinder Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, Sukhbir Kaur, Upinder Singh, Sant Singh Chhatwal among the Sikh and Indo-American attendees. ENTERTAINMENT The night featured a number of performances, including those by Oscar-winning songstress Jennifer Hudson, eight-time Grammy nominated jazz singer Kurt Elling and the National Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Elling hails from Chicago, the home city of the Obamas. The evening included a performance by Indian star A.R. Rahman, a composer, record producer, musician and singer best known in North America as the composer of Slumdog Millionaire song Jai Ho . In keeping with custom, it also included a performance by The President's Own United States Marine Band, which dates back to 1798. STATE DINNER: WHO'S AT THE HEAD TABLES? Just as it is when you finally make it past the velvet rope, only to find that there's another, more exclusive VIP room ... so it was with the nation's most coveted invitation, a White House state dinner. A few hundred got to attend, but only a handful got to sit with the President and First Lady. At Tuesday's dinner for Sardar Manmohan Singh and Sardarni Gursharan Kaur, some obvious picks for the prime seats - the prime minister's daughters and a Nobel laureate at Michelle Obama's table -- but also some surprising ones: Hollywood titan David Geffen, and his boyfriend Jeremy Lingvall at President Obama's table. PRESIDENT'S TABLE Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, India's First Lady Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) Ambassador to India Tim Roemer Mary Johnston, Roemer's guest (likely a relative of his wife, Sally Johnston Roemer) Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo Speaker Nancy Pelosi Paul Pelosi, her husband David Geffen, the Hollywood titan Jeremy Lingvall, Geffen's boyfriend FIRST LADY'S TABLE Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Amrit Singh, the Prime Minister's daughter, an ACLU lawyer in New York Upinder Singh, another daughter, a Professor at University of Delhi Dr. Amartya Sen, Nobel-prize winning economist, now at Harvard Emma Rothschild, Dr. Sen's wife, economic historian, now at Harvard Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Alma Powell, his wife Rep. Howard Berman, (D-Calif.) THE STATE DINNER by Darlene Superville The first state dinner of the Obama White House had it all: Oscar-winning entertainers, Hollywood moguls, a knockout guest chef and even a wardrobe malfunction. Traditional evening gowns vied with saris of vibrant colours Tuesday night at the high-glitz dinner in honour of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There were turbans and bindis as well as diamonds and brocades. "Everyone looks great; we're feeling great," White House social secretary Desiree Rogers told a phalanx of cameras as she arrived, betraying no hint of nerves at the biggest social event of the Obama presidency. First lady Michelle Obama had been a little more forthcoming earlier in the day when she described the trick to pulling off the event as sort of like being a swan: calm and serene above the water but "paddling like mad, going crazy underneath." The 338-person guest list was a mix of Washington insiders, Hollywood A-listers, prominent figures from the Sikh-American and Indian community in the U.S., and Obama friends, family and campaign donors. Attorney General Eric Holder patted his pocket as he arrived and said his kids had prepped him with all sorts of questions for tablemate Steven Spielberg. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, asked who she was most looking forward to chatting with, ventured, "I'd have to name four." Then didn't. Sen. Bob Casey had to scramble when his ensemble went rogue at just the wrong moment: His cummerbund dropped to the floor just as he and his wife stopped to pose before a scrum of about 40 reporters and photographers. Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood provided the celebrity quotient, but neither could come up with a connection to India. Mr. Underwood said he was there because of Ms. Woodard. She said she was there because she's on the president's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Dinner guests were treated to an eye-catching scheme of green and purple, from the green curry surrounding the prawns to the purple floral arrangements paying homage to the peacock, India's national bird. Pumpkin was on the menu, too, with Tuesday's dinner coming just two days before the American harvest holiday of Thanksgiving. Hours before guests arrived and in keeping with tradition, Mrs. Obama previewed the glamorous table settings in the State Dining Room. That's often the venue for such dinners, but not this time. Instead, in an effort to show Mr. Manmohan Singh how much the U.S. values relations with his country, the Obamas decided to serve dinner in a huge white tent on the South Lawn, with views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial through clear panels. It wasn't your everyday tent: This one had chandeliers suspended from the ceiling and beige carpet on the floor. President Barack Obama, in his dinner toast, said the setting conjured images of India, where special events are "often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent." Mr. Manmohan Singh, in turn, told the president he was overwhelmed by the Obamas' hospitality and said the president's election last year had been an inspiration to millions of Indians. Magnolia branches native to both India and the U.S. adorned the tent's inside walls, along with ivy and nandina foliage. Guests were seated 10 apiece at round tables draped in green apple-coloured cloths and napkins, offset by the sparkle of gold-coloured flatware and china, including service and dinner plates from the Eisenhower, Clinton and George W. Bush settings. Floral arrangements of hydrangeas, roses and sweet peas in plum, purple and fuschia evoked India's state bird. Mrs. Obama brought in award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson of Aquavit, a Scandinavian restaurant in New York City, to help White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford and her staff prepare the largely vegetarian meal. Mr. Manmohan Singh is a vegetarian. Mr. Samuelsson said being chosen to help whip up dinner was both "overwhelming and humbling." The culinary offerings included potato and eggplant salad, arugula from the White House garden, red lentil soup and roasted potato dumplings or green curry prawns. Pumpkin pie tart and pear tatin were for dessert; the pears were poached in honey from the White House beehive. The entertainment lineup was stellar. Singer-actress Jennifer Hudson and jazz vocalist and composer Kurt Elling, both Grammy Award winners from the Obamas' hometown of Chicago, were performing. Ms. Hudson also won an Academy Award for her role in Dreamgirls . Indian musician and singer A.R. Rahman, who won two Academy Awards for the music in Slumdog Millionaire , also was in the lineup. Among the other guests: Hollywood moguls David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Guests with ties to India included spiritual adviser Deepak Chopra, director M. Night Shyamalan and PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. Katie Couric of CBS News, Brian Williams of NBC News, Robin Roberts of ABC News and CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta were among the media representatives invited. Oprah Winfrey was not on the list, but her best friend, Gayle King, was among the guests. Also there Obama friends Eric Whitaker and Martin Nesbitt, along with Mr. Obama's half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband, Konrad; and Marian Robinson, the first lady's mother. Every aspect of Tuesday's events was fraught with meaning and symbolism, from the flower colours to Mrs. Obama's clothing designers. For the dinner, Mrs. Obama wore a sleeveless, gold and cream-coloured sheath dress with an overlay of silver and matching shawl by Indian-born designer Naeem Khan. At the State Dining Room event earlier in the day, the first lady wore a skirt by Rachel Roy, who is Indian. The dinner also was a debut of sorts for florist Laura Dowling, who's been on the job less than a month. The list of expected guests for President Barack Obama's first White House state dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as provided by the White House. Barack Obama and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama Sardar Manmohan Singh and India'a First Lady, Sardarni Gursharan Kaur Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y. Sant Singh Chatwal Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission Mukesh D. Ambani Tim Dutta, spouse of Pia Awal David Axelrod, White House senior adviser, and Susan Axelrod Preeta Bansal, general counsel for the Office of Management and Budget Melody Barnes, White House domestic policy director, and Marland E. Buckner Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Jane Berman Om Prakash Bhatt Hunter Biden and Kathleen Biden Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden Robert O. Blake Jr., the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, and Sofia Blake New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Diana Taylor John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism, and Katherine Brennan Lisa Brown, White House staff secretary, and Kevin Cullen Donald Browne and Maria Junqera Carol Browner, White House adviser on energy and climate, and Tom Downey William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Lisa Carty Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Sandee Cartwright Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Terese Casey Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Julie Chandrasekaran I.S. Chaturvedi, personal secretary to India's prime minister Minnesota state Sen. Satveer Chaudhry and Col. Ravi Chaudhry Rohini Chopra Deepak Chopra and Rita Chopra Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Jean Chu Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Emily Clyburn Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Lucy Calutti David Cote Katie Couric of CBS and Brooks L. Perlin Greg Craig, White House counsel, and Margaret D. Craig Paula Crown and Jim Crown Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Maya Rockeymoore Iowa Sen. Swati Dandekar and Arvind Dandekar Rajesh De, deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, and Jason P. DeParle Bhairavi Desai and Javaid Tariq Vishakha N. Desai and Robert Oxman Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Jackie Clegg Dodd John Doerr Thomas Donilon, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, and Cathy Russell Anita Dunn, White House communications director, and Bob Bauer Ari Emanuel and Sarah Emanuel Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff, and Amy Rule Jon Favreau, assistant to the president and director of speechwriting Sarah Feinberg, of the Office of the Chief of Staff District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty Michelle Flournoy Thomas Friedman and Ann Friedman Mike Froman, deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs Ashok S. Ganguly Patrick Gaspard, White House political director and Raina Washington Defense Secretary Robert Gates Charlene Gaynor and Richard Heiss David Geffen and Jeremy Lingvall Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Carole Sonnenfeld Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary Anish Goel, acting senior director of South Asia affairs for the National Security Council Senapathy Gopalakrishnan Mark Gorenberg and Wendy Wanderman John Gorman and Tamra Gorman Ohio state Rep. Jay Goyal and Kiran Goyal Kansas state Rep. Raj Goyle and Monica Arora Gov. Jennifer Granholm, D-Mich., and Daniel Mulhern Earl G. Graves and Barbara Graves Geeta Rao Gupta and Arvind Gupta Raj Gupta Rajat Gupta and Anita M. Gupta Sanjay Gupta and Rebecca Olson Gupta Lee Hamilton and Nancy Hamilton Kamala Harris and Maya Harris Kamil Hassan and Talat Hassan George Haywood and Cheryl J. Haywood Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank, and Thomas P. Healy Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., and Margaret Hodes Attorney General Eric Holder and Sharon Malone John P. Holdren and Cheryl E. Holdren Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and John Norton Robert D. Hormats, undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs, and Camille Massey Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Kathleen May Chris Hughes and Sean S. Eldridge Jeff Immelt Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Irene Hirano Deepa Iyer, Parag Khandhar and Vasudeva Iyer Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Kenneth Jackson Valerie Jarrett, White House senior adviser Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., and Supriya Jindal James Jones, national security adviser, and Diane Jones Vernon Jordan, former adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Ann Jordan Anil Kakani Farooq Kathwari and Farida Kathwari Neal Katyal, deputy solicitor general Jeffrey Katzenberg and Marilyn Katzenberg Maneesha Kelkar and Vinay Vaishampayan Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. Harish Khare, media adviser to Indian prime minister Bradley Kiley, of the Office of Management and Administration, and James Coley, Jr. Gayle King, close friend of Oprah Winfrey U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Matrice Ellis-Kirk Ron Klain, the vice president's chief of staff Chanda Kochhar S.M. Krishna, Indian minister of External Affairs Gaitri Kumar, joint secretary for the Americas, Ministry of External Affairs of India Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer at the White House Jhumpa Lahiri, author, and Alberto Vourvoulias Marc Lasry, co-founder of hedge fund Avenue Capital Group, and Cathy Lasry Jacob Lew, the deputy secretary of state for management and resources Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, and Mona Locke Christopher Lu, Cabinet secretary, and Kathryn Thomson Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Char Lugar Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Elizabeth Jamie Alter Surinder Malhotra Capricia Marshall, chief of protocol at the State Department Alyssa Mastromonaco, of the White House Office of Scheduling Brian Mathis and Tracey Kemble Kiran Mazumda-Shaw Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Joseph Shepard Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Therese Marie Hansen Zarin Mehta and Carmen Lasky Jim Messina, Obama's deputy chief of staff Judd Miner and Linda Miner Newt Minow and Josephine Minow Sunil Bharti Mittal Kalpen Modi, associate director in the Office of Public Liaison Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Deborah Mullen Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Indian National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan Shantanu Narayen and Reni Narayen Raju Narisetti and Durga Raghunath Martin Nesbitt, Obama's friend, and Anita Blanchard Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's half-sister, and Konrad Ng Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Joan Obey Peter Orszag, White House budget director Jim Owens and Katie Owens Deepak Parekh Eboo Patel and Shehnez Mansuri Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., and Diane Patrick House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Paul Pelosi Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director Sam Pitroda and Anjana Pitroda Colin Powell, former Secretary of State, and Alma Powell Rachakonda Prabhu and Lata Shete Prabhu Penny Pritzker and Brian Traubert Kavita Ramdas Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Preetha Reddy Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., and Marjorie Rendell Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Ian Cameron Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and Barbara Richardson Robin Roberts of ABC News Marian Robinson, the first lady's mother Timothy Roemer, U.S. ambassador to India, and Mary Johnston Desiree Rogers, White House social secretary John Rogers Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers Dennis Ross, of the National Security Council Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., and Marie Therese Royce Michael Sacks and Cari Sacks Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and James Sullivan Pankaj Saran, joint secretary to Indian prime minister Shyam Saran, special envoy to Indian prime minister Jaideep Sarkar, personal secretary to Indian prime minister Parag Saxena Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Robert Creamer Phil Schiliro, assistant to the president for legislative affairs, and Jody Schiliro Annetta Seecharran and Seema Agnani Stuart Seldowitz, acting director for South Asia at the National Security Council Amartya Sen and Emma Georgina Rothschild Rajiv J. Shah, undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics Sonal Shah, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council's Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Vinod Shah Meera Shankar, India's ambassador in Washington Susan Sher, assistant to the president and chief of staff to the first lady, and Neil Cohen M. Night Shyamalan, movie director, and Bhavna Shyamalan Amrit Singh and Analjit Singh Arun K. Singh, deputy chief of mission for the Indian Embassy Balvinder Singh and Mohinder Singh Lakhwinder Singh and Sukhbir Kaur Upinder Singh Steven Spielberg, movie director Sri Srinivasan and Carla Garrett Srinija Srinivasan Jim Steinberg, deputy secretary of state, and Sherburne Bradstreet Semonti Stephens, deputy press secretary for the first lady Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, and Anna Burger, Change to Win chairwoman Jane Stetson and Bill Stetson Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council, and Elisa New Mona Sutphen, White House deputy chief of staff, and Clyde Williams Ratan Tata Tina Tchen, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Vinai Thummalapally, U.S. ambassador to Belize, and Barbara Thummalapally Jim Torrey and Rose P. Lynch Richard Trumka and Paul H. Lemmon Urvashi Vaid and Kate Clinton Kirk Wagar and Crystal Connor Eric E. Whitaker and Cheryl Whitaker Brian Williams of NBC News and Jane Williams Wellington Wilson and Mrs. Wilson (first name was not given) Neal Wolin, deputy treasury secretary Alfre Woodard, actress, and Blair E. Underwood, actor Fareed Zakaria and Paula Throckmorton Zakaria [Courtesy: The Globe & Mail, with reports from The Washington Post and The Associated Press] November 25, 2009 Forwarded by forum member Tejwant Singh ji Malik.