When Hugo Chavez raved about spicy Indian food
BANGALORE: A man with a fondness for chilli, and totally chilled out. This was the impression Hugo Chavez made in Bangalore during his visit in 2005.
In the city for two days on March 6 and 7, the late Venezuelan president expressed his liking for spicy Indian food and even scooped out a connection in the cuisines. "Unlike popular perception, our native recipes do have a generous quantity of chilli. Perhaps that is why I have taken a liking to spicy Indian food," he told office-bearers of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKover lunch.
His lunch-mates though do not distinctly remember what he ate that day. "He mostly dug into Indian food, though he did have a few western dishes too," recalls R C Purohit, the then vice-president of FKCCI. The meeting with FKCCI members was his lone engagement during the trip. His disarming friendliness charmed everyone. "He never behaved like the head of a nation. A very charismatic leader, he connected with the audience within minutes of his address prior to lunch," says Purohit.
When asked by a mediaperson what kept him going, Chavez quipped, "It's certainly not petroleum." Recalls T Ramappa, who as secretary of FKCCI then scheduled his entire trip, "That was the only line he spoke in English. Otherwise, he only conversed in Spanish."
Promoting his country as an ideal tourist spot, Chavez invited potential investors from Bangalore to Venezuela. "He spoke about petroleum and petro products and invited traders to invest in his country," said Manandi N Suresh, then president of FKCCI, adding, "He was keen to have good ties with India and Indian investors. He mentioned that Venezuela was a poor country but rich in resources, particularly petroleum."
Chavez was particularly impressed by Bangalore's twin prowess in IT and biotechnology, and invited people from these two sectors to set up shop in Venezuela.
True to his promise, a delegation led by the Venezuelan trade minister and tourism officials touched base in Bangalore within three months of his visit to elaborate on the trade policies that the country had to offer.
Those who got to interact with Chavez closely during his visit also recall one common thread in his discussions - his hostility to the US. He is believed to have been critical of the US in all possible spheres.