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How Maurya geared up for the Bush visit
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | March 04, 2006 21:01 IST
United States President George W Bush's security staff were so worried about the president's security that they blocked Google's website in the Maurya Sheraton Hotel where he stayed.
"We do not know what the reason was, but they blocked the site and we could not access it from the hotel," said a senior official of Maurya, which the president's personal security took over from the afternoon of March 1 when the last non-American guest of the hotel checked out.
Hotel general manager Dipak Haksar told rediff.com that the gun-totting security personal were pleasant and always had a smile on their faces.
"It was a wonderful experience and honour to host President Bush at our hotel. We now have the distinction of hosting two American presidents, the first being Bill Clinton when he visited India in March 2000," he said.
But, both the experiences were poles apart, the hotel staff said.
Clinton loved to interact with other guests and the hotel staff, and frequented his favourite restaurant Bukhara to have Sikandri Ran or Dal Makhani.
He even allowed the hotel to give him a traditional Indian welcome with a garland and tilak.
Bush, on the contrary, chose not to be seen.
"There was a greater threat perception this time. We had put up a curtain in the lobby so that nobody could see him," said Haksar.
Secret Service agents and the sniffer dogs went around the hotel checking for explosives. A 10-feet-high canvas separated the hotel and the ridge in front of it. Security personnel put up machans (watch towers) with powerful lights inside the forest to guard against any terrorist attempts.
"We began preparing for the visit almost a month ago and trained our staff accordingly," Haksar admitted.
Food and beverages manager Tejinder Singh led a team of 20 officials and bearers who were asked to move into the hotel a day before Bush's arrival.
"We were allowed access to the floor where the grand presidential suite is located, but only on calling. We would take the food items to the floor and from there the American bearers and butlers took over.
Executive chef Vijay Nagpal and his staff worked round the clock for almost 10 days to get all sorts of bread prepared.
"We were told that he [the president] was not fussy. He liked our croissant bread roll and used to order the same with organic honey and butter and jam. We were told keep fresh fruits ready and we had stocked plenty in his suite. We were told that he would eat in the hotel on the last day, but he left for Pakistan," Nagpal said.
Bush was pleased with the hospitality of the hotel and shook hands with Haksar and his staff and thanked them for being wonderful hosts.
'Thank you for the hospitality and my best wishes, George Bush,' he wrote on a hotel letterhead before leaving.
The grand presidential suite was opened in January and the first guest to be put up there was King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.