Passing Strangers: Jan. 28th
Back home in India, after a month’s stay in US. Leaving the Singapore airport is the first warm up exercise for me in getting used to India again. The person in the seat next to me is a 40-year-old Jewish salesman from Miami, who sells medical software to Asia. We talk about India (he has been selling to India for 5 years now), and he recites the typical litany of complaints. India’s dismal infrastructure continues to anger him. He can’t do e-mail, his telephone expenses are ridiculous, etc. An "old Asia hand", he notes that even Indonesia is a better place to do business than India, and it is only Indian food that lures him back to Bombay and Trivandrum, time and time again. He wants deeply to visit Kashmir; the terrorism of the north preventing him from doing so.
On the Madras-Bangalore route, I strike up an acquaintance with a handsome, elderly gentleman who appears to be about 60. He introduces himself as Male Gowda and tells me, after he’s sufficiently warmed up to me, that he used to be an MP (member of parliament) for Kannada (Bangalore’s state) in the seventies. I ask him if he is related to Deve Gowda (India’s current primeminister) and he tell me he knows Deve, but is not related. He then asks me to guess his age. I tell him sixty, and he gleefully tells me he is 85! Amazed, I ask him the secret of his good health, and he tells me it is good sex, not too much mind you, but enough to keep him active. I note that he is carrying a bottle of Napoleon Courvosier Cognac with him, and we have fun talking about cognacs that we have drunk. Alcohol, sex, and politics. Some things remain the same the world over.