Saturday evening, I was invited to dinner by the governor of Maharastra, Mr. C. Subramaniam. It was the first time ever that I had been invited to dinner at the Raj Bhavan. I kept the invitation lying open on my desk for several days, so that everybody could see it. Much later, I came to know that, besides myself, 49 other journalists had been invited.
The time given was 7.50 p.m. dress: informal. So I went in the same clothes that I had gone to work on the day, and on the day previous to that, and the day previous to that. The invitation was only for “Mr.”, wives were not invited. “Typical of them,” said the wife.
I arrived exactly at 7.50 p.m. I had been warned: the governor will arrive (though how you can arrive in your own house, I do not know) at 8 p.m., everbody will stand up to greet him, the national anthem will be played, dinner will be served, and you will be home by 9.30 p.m. Well, it was not exactly like that, but more or less.
The dinner was on the lawns, 50 chairs had been laid out (Russy Karanjia, who was one of the guests, looked at the chairs and observed: “Like at a Parsi funeral”). Eventually, about 20 guests arrived, Mr. Vinod Mehta being the last. The other 30 ingonred the invitation.
The governor came on the lawns at 8 p.m., followed by an ADC. No national anthem was played and dinner was not served immediately. The gas flames to warm the dishes had been lit, but the governor ordered them to be put off, probably deciding to wait for his remaining 30 guests.
The governor sat on a sofe, Mr. Russy Karanjia and Mr. Ayub Sayed on his two sides. Mr. Sayed talked about Kashmir, Punjab, Mr. V.P. Singh, Mr. Devi Lal, Sri Lanka, the BJP, past governors of Maharastra, Mr. Sharad Pawar. The only other person who talked was the sea, which murmured about us.
Then we all moved to the tables and chairs for dinner. We sat on a round table for about a dozen, Mr. Karanjia and Mr. Sayed on two sides of the governor. We had baked macaroni, two somewhat messy vegetables, chicken, pea pulao, and shahi tukda. Mr. Sayed gave the history of the shahi tukda, the history of MGR, Jagmohan, talked about Sharad Pawar, Dhirubhai Ambani, Chautala, Goa, Rajiv Gandhi, Chandra Shekhar.
In between, the governor put in a word. He told the bearer: “Roti lao.”
The dinner was over, we thanked the governor, hoped there would be more such occasions when we would meet, and left, each in his own car. Since I did not have a car, Mr. Mehta gave me a lift in his Ambani car. First, he had himself dropped, then he told the driver: “Saab ko Chruchgate pe chore dena, aur Monday ku 10.10 ku ghar lana.”
So now we know what itme Mr. Mehta goes to work.