President Pranab Mukherjee revealed on Wednesday during a function that he had no knowledge about how Rashtrapati Bhavan functioned till the day he assumed office.
“I had gone to Rashtrapati Bhavan a lot many times before I took over in connection with government work, but I did not know how the President’s House functioned and what lay inside. I had even sent my daughter (Sharmistha) two days before I took oath to get an idea,” he said.
Mukherjee recalled that he came to Delhi for the first time in July 1979 for taking oath as a Rajya Sabha member and stayed a stone’s throw away from Rashtrapati Bhavan for 43 years.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan museum which opens to public on October 2, will have on display the gifts and treasures housed inside the British era structure, he said.
“The museum will be made operational on October 2. It will house gifts presented by visiting heads of state, foreign dignitaries like prime ministers, foreign ministers, defence ministers,” Mukherjee said as he thanked eminent Bengali writer Prof Ranjan Banerjee who spent seven days in Rashtrapati Bhavan as part of the ‘In-Residence’ programme initiated by the President.
“So far, 140 people, including bright students from IITs, NIITs, innovators, have stayed here as part of the programme,” he said on Tuesday night.
Mukherjee also gave an insight into the set-up in the President’s House, including Durbar Hall, Ashoka Hall, Banquet Hall, their use for various state events, the Library, one of his favourite places, and the area where the British Viceroys stayed.
“Not five, but even 15 years are not enough to peruse the books housed in the Library,” Mukherjee, a voracious reader and an ex-college professor, said.
“The bedrooms in the area where the Viceroy stayed are so large that one cannot get sleep there,” he quipped.
Prof Banerjee, who writes on Rabindranath Tagore, 19th century renaissance in Bengal and other littérateurs like Michael Madhusudan Dutta, shared his thoughts on the works of the Nobel Laureate and other writers during the interaction.