By all accounts India was the largest nation with a country booth as well as five states with their own pavilions here at the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos. Three central ministers and a bunch of state ministers, including Telangana’s KT Rama Rao (or KTR as he is called), plus a bevy of government officials and private sector promoters and executives made for a sizeable and impressive presence.
The Telangana pavilion stood out from the rest, not only because it was spic and span, but also because it was placed separately at a distance down the promenade from Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh pavilion was very forlorn – with onlookers commenting on its deserted ambience amidst the last-minute cancellation of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
While the organisers had earlier indicated that India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and foreign minister S. Jaishankar were supposed to attend, it was Chouhan’s absence that stood out, especially as a tidy sum of money must have gone into setting up the state booth.
The Indian pavilions witnessed a good footfall -– not only for the expansive brochures and investment pitches being made, but for a more basic reason -– the food. This correspondent saw people sniff the air outside the India lounge and walk in hoping to grab a bite of ‘some Indian food’. Considering the numbers, people were lucky to even get a cup of tea, served by Premier’s Tea, a Kolkata-based company that lays claim to being a gourmet tea supplier with dozens of packaged varieties. There were samosas too, but they disappeared within moments of being rolled out from the kitchen.
But, food was not an issue at the dinner hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at the Hotel Morosani on Wednesday night. Davos regulars say the dinner is timed well for the evening of the fourth day of the event, not just because people start leaving afterwards, but because by that time, even the most well-heeled Indians are happy to grab some real desi khana.
This dinner too wasn’t any different.
The plates were full and not just those of the Indian guests. Rice, piled on top with every manner of Indian ‘curries’, topped by the ‘roti-bread’ and with wine in glass-holders that clip on to the plate. For a moment, I wondered, if this was a special dinner plate – meant for television journalists like me to attach their gun mikes to!
The 51st edition of the WEF draws to a close today.
What started as a fire-side chat in a snow-covered village of Davos way back in 1971, is set to return next January. While several regulars seemed to prefer the sunshine that was interspersed with spells of rain, the forum will stick to its half-century old tradition of bringing the global elite together in the snow.
For come rain or sunshine or the drifts of snow, the elite can always fly in on their choppers to mull over business high and low.
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