india times

Posted on September 25, 2009


I don’t do much travelling anymore. I lost the taste for it after 9/11 I think. Airplane scare me. Instead, I travel in my imagination. It helps when I get input from elsewhere like through the following note, which I found on the floor of a telephone cabin on Broad St, London, not far from the Royal Opera House in the late 1990s, obviously part of a larger story. For some reason, I kept it in an old diary where I recently found it. I don’t know what this means or if it’s true but it certainly is strange and funnily international. Read for yourself. (Transcribed from the handwritten original.)

[…] I must tell you this. At the time, I was a Higher Correspondent for the Times for all of India. India is not what you think – my India is a small, little known country that emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990, and because it was so little known even then, even within the vast corridors of the Kremlin, they forgot to introduce it to the international community at the time. The Indians were so shocked that they’d been given their independence (originally they had only asked for annual tickets to the Royal Ballet in Moscow for a selected group of government officials) that they forgot it, too. so that by the time they caught up with the developments, it was too late, the world was interested in different things. Just how unimportant they were considered to be, you will understand if I tell you that the Indians, in an imitative desperate move, offered to host US troops and were turned down cold even though India is conveniently placed half way between Russia and China, the climate is pleasant, the women are beautiful and they have a philharmonic orchestra that plays a very decent tune.

This orchestra plays an important role for what I have to tell you. You see, the Indians were not only little known, they were also naturally really small, about the size of a normal, non-Indian 8 year old. Which is why, when an Indian attended an international political event, they were mostly not taken seriously or had little chance of making themselves heard. Therefore, many of the players of the  National Indian Philharmonic Orchestra were smaller than their instruments.

For an international correspondent, India was a frustrating work place. I would write these great stories, and the central desk clerks and journalists would change a thing here and there and publish them as if they referred to the larger India that everyone knows, or to one of its states (the smallest of which is still one hundred times larger than my India). Of course I was aware that I was part of a plot deceiving our readers, but since nobody ever complained, we left it at that. You see, there is far too much going on all the time everywhere to even verify small stories from a large country let alone from an unknown country. Especially since my stories did not deal with political scandals or atrocious crimes: India has got only one politician, the Prime Minister, and only one scandal – when the Prime Minister’s unmarried daughter was caught in flagranti with a foreign correspondent (me).

I believe that headquarters were themselves confused about my whereabouts because I regularly received invitations to events in New Delhi or Mumbai or urgent cables to do one thing or another. I left all these unanswered since I considered the lack of information about me unprofessional and insulting. […]