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The elderly European woman dressed in a long black coat with a walking stick in her hand was given VVIP treatment when she came to Kamani auditorium last Sunday to see the English version of Pino DiBuduo's Italian play Fellini's Dream. The Italian drama was part of Bharat Rang Mahotsav, an annual theatre festival in New Delhi of the National School of Drama. The special guest, who was escorted by Amal Allana, chairperson of the National School of Drama, was none other than Paola Maino, Sonia Gandhi's octogenarian mother. Maino, who came along with a female relative, was accompanied by security personnel armed with walkie-talkies. The two women took the front row seats while the commandos were seated behind her in the second row.
President Abdul Kalam began the practice of allowing visitors a peep at the interiors of Rashtrapati Bhavan, but under President Pranab Mukherjee, the Rashtrapati Bhavan tour has become far more professional and imaginative. Omita Paul, Secretary to the President, has ordered that the many pieces of furniture which were stored haphazardly in various nooks and crannies should be refurbished and placed in appropriate spaces. Cupboards lying randomly in corridors are being gradually removed and rolled up carpets are being spread out. Visitors now get to see the Darbar Hall in all its glory with the furniture and floral arrangements and not just an empty shell. The long drawing room, the north drawing room and the renovated library have also been opened to the public for the first time. A guidebook on the main rooms in the president's residence is being prepared. A maximum of 700 visitors are permitted daily on weekends with most of the tourists booking their passes through the internet.
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