I was meeting this Pakistani diplomat in a high-ceilinged room; he sat behind a large desk. Very suave. He said he would be visiting Mumbai and wanted me to suggest some hotel.
Given that he was an official of some standing, I mentioned the top-end hotels. I told him about the sea view in the old wing of one.
Then he enquired about the private airlines, and I told him.
He replied with a rather surprising, “Are they not too expensive?”
“Yes, they are, but you can buy coupons if you are certain about the dates of travel; then it turns out cheaper,” I said helpfully.
“Oh, and which one do you normally travel by?”
I gave the name. The places to eat and shop.
Happy about my potential as a tourist guide (so what if I will never be brand ambassador), I walked out. I saw him smile, the curve of his lips on one side rising higher than the other. The sort of smile when…ah, never mind.
I recounted this to an Indian diplomat who knew about our meeting. He looked aghast.
“Who told you to talk so much?”
“What do you mean? He wanted to know about my city.”
“Do you imagine you are the only source of information he has? He is a big guy with travel agents who know everything. They know more than they need to.”
“So why did he ask me about airline fares?”
“And you told him about coupons! This is really strange.”
“But the meeting went off well.”
“Yes, and he had a lot of information about you, which is what he wanted. This is their job. I know because we do the same. Have a good trip.”
PS: He does not feature in the book.
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Results of last poll
What image comes to mind when you think of 9/11?
Terrorists 5 (23%), Muslims 4 (19%), TwinTowers 7 (33%), George Bush 7 (33%), Nothing 1 (4%)