A piece of advice for foreign minister Salman Khursheed – he should not take offence if a foreign traveller or tourist to India makes an unsavoury comment about our country.
Khursheed should not be like his predecessor S.M. Krishna who used to get offended if any foreigner made a critical comment, even if in lighter vein, about India.
Exactly a year back, BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson in a travel show named Top Gear had travelled to a slum in India in a car that had a toilet seat in the boot.
Clarkson had said in the programme that toilet in cars in India were a necessity as westerners here often suffered from diarrhoea due to hot and spicy Indian food.
Krishna was peeved with Clarkson and his comment. He had asked the Indian high commissioner in London to talk to the producers of Top Gear.
But two modern day Ibn Batutas recently discovered that Indian food do upset stomachs, at wrong time and place.
Perdu Ornab and Perdu Mark, brothers and natives of New Caledonia, a small island in south-west Pacific Ocean are at present hopscotching the world in a small two-seater plane.
They are flying from east to west and reached Kolkata from Dhaka a month back.
After spending a couple of days in Kolkata, the Perdus took off from Kolkata in the noon of November 7 for New Delhi. The distance between Kolkata and New Delhi is 1500 km. The weather conditions were fine and flying smooth.
When the plane was gliding over the great plains of Uttar Pradesh, Perdu Mark felt a slight rumbling in his stomach.
He did not give a second thought to the rumbling and concentrated on navigating the plane.
But he soon realised that the rumbling was increasing. He was alarmed. He felt needed to use a toilet urgently. But then a two-seater plane has nothing expect two seats in the cockpit.
Perdu Mark’s condition aggravated. He felt he was losing control over his bowels. His clutched his swelling stomach in agony. He realised stomach would burst its seams if he did not go to a toilet within few minutes. He groaned as he checked the meters of the plane which showed that he was flying at a speed of 200 km per hour, at a height of 20,000 feet.
Perdu Orsab contacted air traffic control office (ATC) in Kolkata and apprised it about his brother’s pathetic condition.
The ATC asked for their location. The Perdus checked the meters and the map and found that they were nearing Kanpur (my home).
The ATC gave the two travellers a useless piece of information. The ATC official said, ‘You can land in Kanpur. But the aerodrome in Kanpur is managed and controlled by the Indian Air Force. You have to take permission from foreign and defence ministries of India for landing there. But sensing your position, we think that’s not possible for you now.’
Perdu Mark rubbed his belly, hoping to get some relief while his brother barked at the ATC official, ‘Thanks for your suggestion. So what do we do now?’
‘Try Amausi airport in Lucknow. You can make an unscheduled landing at a civil airport in case of a medical emergency,’ said the ATC official.
Without wasting any time in thanking ATC, Kolkata, Perdu Orsab contacted the ATC, Lucknow and told them that he wanted to make an emergency landing due to an emergency medical condition.
Indians believe in ‘Atithhi Devo Bhava.’ A foreigner is most welcome; an ailing foreigner is all the more welcome. ATC, Lucknow gave the Perdus a green signal. Perdu Orsab’s last message to ATC, Lucknow was: ‘Please keep the toilets unoccupied and their doors open.’
The plane had not even come to a halt when Perdu Mark jumped out and sprinted.
I came to know about the plight of the Perdus from a Bangla newspaper. The report in the newspaper was rightly headlined ‘akash-e veg’ (pressure in the air). I can’t read Bangla and my father had read the report to me.
The Perdus have most probably left India. I don’t know if they will again visit our country. My sympathies are with them.
Nowadays, whenever I see a plane or helicopter hovering directly over me, I move indoors. You can’t be sure.
Bengalis are argumentative by nature. The officials at ATC, Kolkata are still debating what food led to Perdo Mark’s ‘medical condition.’ One is saying the Perdus took off after eating jhaal moori; another is saying they had egg-roll.