Another time, another place

I recall writing a special report for Mumbai’s Mid-Day during Kuwait’s invasion by Iraq between August 1990 and January 1991 and to my surprise every Goan returnee I interviewed had a horror tale to tell of the sheer insensitivity of Indian embassies to all Indians wherever their help was sought.


Faleiro went there too, at least he stationed himself in a neighbouring country (I can’t remember which), to help. Apparently, his presence did not help one bit. Faleiro was there as a representative of Rajiv Gandhi’s opposition Congress (VP Singh was the Prime Minister at the time) and along with the then Foreign Minister Inder Kumar Gujral even met Iraq’s President Saddam Hussain. In an interview later, Faleiro was quoted as saying, “I must say I was given special treatment in meeting President Hussein. I suppose this was because his Baath Party had fraternal relations with the Congress.” But, sadly, accounts of fleeing Goans indicated they were not given special treatment.


Wasted Effort

My point is Indian embassies are as a rule uncooperative and not accommodating. And for this, I can vouch. When I lost my passport in Bejing in August 2007, I discovered to my everlasting disappointment that the Chinese police, authorities and my travel guide were overeager to help, but not the Indian embassy, then headed by Nirupama Rao, now India’s foreign secretary. The attitude I encountered was typically desi, every Indian at the embassy felt (and showed it) they were doing me a huge favour in issuing me a duplicate passport. In contrast a female Chinese police officer spent more time trying to explain to me the procedures in China, the job that should have been done by someone in the embassy. Fed up, I called up every senior journalist friend I knew in Delhi. Hey presto, it finally worked, and my passport was ready, but not before the laminating machine was purposely made to malfunction because my calling up ‘friends’ made me the most hated Indian in Beijing. In fact, when I went across to say thank you, one graceless official said –“Whatever.”