Guess who came for Obama-Manmohan dinner? (Lead)

Washington, Nov 25 ( Guess who came for US President Barack Obama’s first state dinner? Washington’s worst-kept state secret was out Tuesday evening as Hollywood moguls, billionaire tycoons, powerful senators and prominent Indian Americans gathered for the hottest social event in town at the White House.

The glamour and glitz mingled with high gravitas and pomp of office at the biggest social event of the Obama presidency held in honour of India’s highly respected economist-turned-prime minister Manmohan Singh and his spouse Gursharan Kaur.

Over 300 guests arrived for the dinner hosted in a majestic white tent on the South Lawns of the White House as their names were announced with Oscar-style fanfare. They posed before the paparazzi, smiled, traded small talk, with society columnists dissecting every small detail of what they wore and what they thought.

Actors Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood, legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg and Indian-American auteur M. Night Shyamalan, musician A.R. Rehman, who composed the Oscar-wining score for blockbuster “Slumdog Millionaire”, competed for attention with writer Jhumpa Lahiri, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, author Thomas Friedman and new age guru Deepak Chopra.

“Everyone looks great; we’re feeling great,” White House social secretary Desiree Rogers said as she gingerly walked to the dinner venue on the expansive lawns.

“We are trying to have a good time,” gushed Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Chinese American scientist and a Nobel prize winner who visited India earlier this month.

The political establishment, sporting black tuxedo and black tie, turned out in full strength.

Vice-President Joe Biden, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Representative Howard Berman were among the power pack who dutifully trooped to the most glamorous party hosted by the Obama administration.

Top Indian billionaires like Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal, who between them contribute a sizable portion of India’s GDP, were also present.

The spirit of bipartisanship that Obama has championed was reflected in the choice of guests.

Among the prominent Indian-Americans who attended the power do were Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, Rajat Gupta of McKinsey fame, Vishakha Desai, president of Asia Society, Kamla Harris, district attorney of San Francis district, hotelier Sant Chatwal and Sonal Shah, an economist who heads Obama’s office of social innovation.