Between a dinner and a breakfast and a lot of culture thrown in between, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoyed a royal stay at the Taj Coromandel.
The Royal Suite, where Ms. Clinton stayed in for the one night she was here, was originally done up for the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Chennai in October 1997. But then, Ms. Clinton did not quite take the elevator to the seventh floor suite immediately after she arrived at the hotel at about 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday. Before that there was a lot of South Indian culture to be imbibed and enjoyed.
Primed with an exposure to Indian dances at Kalakshetra, she was still impressed with the traditional welcome accorded to her: royal umbrellas lining her path to the hotel’s refurbished entrance; the poo kolam (flower pattern on the floor) that read ‘vanakam’; lighting the kuthuvilakku; the red kunkumum applied to her forehead; and the brief bharatanatyam dance performance in front of the bronze Nataraja in the foyer.
Ms. Clinton’s breakfast was typically south Indian with idlis, pongal, upma and dosas. Her choice of cuisine that night was Chinese and the venue was the Golden Dragon, the hotel’s Cantonese and Sichuan restaurant. Master Chinese Chef William Ho worked up a Chinese smorgasbord, which included Har Gao, Shumai, Chicken Bao, Mantao among several other exotic dishes. The Royal Suite was specially decorated to showcase the best of South Indian culture to the visiting dignitary. N. Prakash, General Manager, Taj Coromandel, explains that the décor of the Suite gracefully blends the classic with the contemporary, and features a private terrace sit-out offering a breathtaking view of the city. To give the entire experience a south Indian touch, the terrace sit-out was beautifully decorated with terracotta figurines, wooden antique lady musicians, Tanjore dolls, urlis with while lotuses and tall palm leaves in terracotta urns.
The hotel’s many teams were preparing for the visit for nearly a week, taking care to see that everything went well, Mr. Prakash said. “It was a truly memorable experience for all of us.” But if the hotel staff were impressed by Ms. Clinton, she was equally impressed by the Taj hospitality. Her departure at 10 a.m. was grand as well, and with the heady influence of South Indian culture. The U.S. Secretary of State was bid adieu with a high-energy symphony by the talavaadya ensemble playing the ghatam, mridangam, tavil and kanjira, and accompanied by a konakul (vocal percussions).
Enthralled by the entire experience, Ms. Clinton reportedly said: “No one organises a welcome better than the Taj!”
Airforce One took off from Chennai airport at 10.50 a.m. Hindu