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At Home with the President

As President Kalam embarks on his walkabout, King Abdullah is left to fend for himself. On his right, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is silent. On his left, beyond the empty Presidential seat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does likewise. Sensing it is inappropriate not to make conversation with a cherished guest, former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral asks Dr Singh's okay to chat with the king, settles down in President Kalam's empty chair, and engages the monarch in a long, animated conversation.

Gujral is not the only one in the President's special enclosure solicitious of Abdullah's wellbeing. After she sees the king decline the bowls of food offered, Sonia Gandhi beckons to a bodyguard and requests him to ask the Rashtrapati Bhavan bearers to serve Abdullah a cup of tea.

None of the other Saudis accompanying their king demonstrate such reluctance when confronted with Indian cuisine and are seen wolfing down the fare with some gusto.

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King Abdullah looks much younger than his 82 years. His face appears unlined and his dark goatee gives him a dashing cavalier look.

Photograph: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

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