It’s Rangolis and raining millets: How G20 heads’ spouses got a taste of India | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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It’s Rangolis and raining millets: How G20 heads’ spouses got a taste of India

Sep 10, 2023 05:18 AM IST

The visitors witnessed climate-resistant crops, transforming technologies by 15 agri startups, and interacted with farmers.

As G20 leaders brainstormed on the world’s most pressing issues, their spouses on Saturday toured the 1,200-acre Pusa-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) campus in New Delhi , the sprawling cutting-edge agricultural research establishment and snacked on unique millet savories. They walked down “Agri Street”, an exhibition, which, in a span of 200 metres, showcased India’s journey from being a net importer of food to an agricultural powerhouse.

Partners of the heads of G20 countries at the National Agriculture Science Centre’s “Rangoli area” featuring two massive “millet Rangolis”. (HT Photo)
Partners of the heads of G20 countries at the National Agriculture Science Centre’s “Rangoli area” featuring two massive “millet Rangolis”. (HT Photo)

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The visitors then headed out to the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), where they bought souvenirs and witnessed an exhibition of traditional Indian weaves and dance performances. The NGMA complex was decorated with 800 kites to welcome the dignitaries.

India is using its G20 presidency to bolster its global standing by highlighting its technological leap, from a successful moon landing to a digital public infrastructure.

“The purpose of the Pusa trip for the spouses of G20 leaders was to give them an insight into India’s advancements in agriculture too and how we are an important pillar of global food and nutritional security,” said Ashok Kumar Singh, the head of the flagship Indian Agricultural Research Institute, who accompanied the guests. The guests were received by Kyoko Jaishankar, the wife of India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar, at the institute.

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The visitors included Britain’s first lady Akshata Murty, Australian PM Anthony Albanese’s wife Carmel Tebbutt, Mauritius’s first lady Kobita Ramdanee, Japanese first lady Yoku Kishida, the wife of Turkey’s president Emine Erdoğan and Heiko von der Leyen, the husband of EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

The focus was on coarse cereals or millets, as India seeks to make these hardy grains a global source of nutritional security, amid increasing vulnerability of cereals to climate change. The United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets based on a proposal moved by India and backed by over 70 nations.

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The visitors witnessed climate-resistant crops, transforming technologies by 15 agri startups, and interacted with farmers who told them how food has shaped the country’s colourful culture.

Their first pit stop was the National Agriculture Science Centre’s “Rangoli area” featuring two massive “millet Rangolis”. Rangoli is a popular art form in which patterns are made on the floor, usually with finely ground cereal powders, colours and flowers.

One of the counters demonstrated live cooking of several top varieties of basmati developed by Indian scientists to improve their aroma, taste and fluffiness. The visitors discovered that basmati was a staple for all of them. India is the world’s top exporter of the scented rice.

“The guests, especially UK’s first lady Akshata Murty, were amazed to see how some Indian basmati varieties, when cooked, grew two to four times their original size,” Singh said.

Celebrity chefs Kunal Kapur, Anahita Dhondy and Ajay Chopra, along with culinary experts from the ITC Group prepared a full-course millets-based meal. On the menu was jowar-mushroom khichda, millet thekua and a lemon shrikhand mille-feuille dessert.

At NGMA, the lunch menu included pumpkin and coconut shorba, Naga black rice bhel, beetroot and peanut butter tikki, Bengal mustard and wild nettle raita.

The NGMA event was also marked by performances of regional dances, including Bihu, Chau, Kuchipudi, Lavani, and Manipur. A total of 44 artistes performed in the event.

The curator of the exhibition “Roots and Routes” at NGMA, Raghvendra Singh, earlier told reporters: “It is an attempt to curate the scattered pieces that present our culture... So that the grandiose is on display... This has increased the prestige of the exhibition... We wanted to prepare a world-class exhibition for world leaders. And we got the opportunity... what better opportunity than this...”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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