New Delhi: From intricate Banarsi weaves not only in saris but in a wide range of garb from traditional to modern, and a mouth-watering ensemble of dishes - and an opportunity to try their own hand at cooking, it was an enticing introduction to the arts and cuisine of India for a host of African first ladies accompanying their spouses for the India-Africa Forum Summit.
The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) collaborated with the external affairs ministry to present "Threads of Banaras" as part of the first ladies' programme during the summit and it wowed the distinguished guests, who kept a close eye on the handloom clothes displayed while several expressed their love for "yellow dal" and the tangy taste of "golgappas."
First ladies from the east African nation of Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, the southern African nations of Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland, the central African nation of Ethiopia, the western African nations of Equitorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Mali and Senegal and the island nations of Comoros, Madagascar, and Mauritius participated.
Coming straight away from the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple on the banks of the Yamuna here, the dignitaries looked excited to the fashion show which was going to show them the exquisitely beautiful world of Banarasi weaving.
The 25-minute show was a collection by Ekaya which ran over four segments and paid a tribute to the vivacity of Banaras and its accomplished weavers. The first segment began with traditional Banarasi saris, followed by ornate lehengas, salwar-kameez and Anarkalis, while the final showcased modern interpretations of global fashion with traditional weaves.
As Vedic chants filled the air, in keeping with the atmospheric charm of the Hindu holy city, it transported guests to a golden era of India's richest textiles, weaves and embroideries.
"'Threads of Benaras' has been presented by, put together and conceptualized by FDCI along with Ekaya that has 50 years of history of working on weavers and master weavers brought the heritage and handloom of Benaras," said FDCI president Sunil Sethi.
Moving ahead, there was culinary session with Chef Kunal Kapoor, who took everyone to the world of India's rich diversity in food, and crunchy, tangy golgappas to crisp aloo tikkis, the first ladies enjoyed all the fare with a smile.
Many confessed to be enormously impressed with India.
"I am amazed with India, its rich colour and diversity. Its beautiful," said one of the first ladies.
Some admitted to a keen love for Indian food.
"I love yellow dal of India," said one of the delegates.
A few daring ones even displayed their culinary skills by making carom seed (ajwain) flavoured parathas along with Kapoor on stage.
"I try such stuffs at my home too," said Tanzanian first lady Asha Mahmoud Mzee while giving a demo of her culinary skills.
The first ladies were accompanied with spouses of top Indian leaders including Delhi Lt.Gov Najeeb Jung's wife Ameena Jung, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's wife Sunita Kejriwal, and Neelam Pratap Rudy, and Joram Rina Rijiju, wives of union ministers Rajeev Pratap Rudy and Kiren Rijiju, as well as Jaya Jaitly, Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, and National Commission for Women chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam.