Last night, I attended a most unusual cocktail party. The East German consul-general, Mr. Wolfgang Gerber, held a farewell party. His team ends on October 3. In fact, the East German mission ends on October 3, in Bombay and India and all over the world. There will be no more German Democratic Republic.
It was, in many respects, a sad occasion. More or less the entire consular corps in Bombay was there. The French consul-general and his wife were there, and the Turkish consul-general and his wife, and a representative from the Iranian consulate, alone in a dark suit and no tie, and the Kuwait consul-general, who, like the East German, is alos without a country, only more so.
And all the honorary consuls were there en force, and the friends of the East Germans and what was once the Eastern Bloc, Comrade Sitaram B. Kolpe, and Principal T.K. Tope, though I did not see my friend, Comrade Lalit Chari… must be out of town. And, as if to give the final finishing touch to the socialist economic system, the representatives of the capitalist Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, from Bombay and Delhi.
The East Germans have been popular in Bombay. Though officially secretive (they have locks on every door in the consulate, and the first floor of the consulate could only be entered by those members of the staff who had a red key on them), in private they have always been full of fine beer and good cheer.
And Mr. Wolfgang Gerber has been more popular than most. Looking more like a friendly teddy-bear than Bavarian bear, he is a smiling, jovial man who has suddenly found himself to be without a job. His predicament is that of most of the East German diplomatic staff, in Bombay and everywhere else. Most of the appointments are party appointments, and the German foreign office, their new masters, has no use for them.
So, in a way, yesterday’s cocktail party was a sad occasion. And all the guests, eating German sausages dipped in German mustard and sipping German wine, were aware of it.
Except, perhaps, Mr. and Mrs. Gerber themselves. Till the end the perfect diplomats, they stood at the entrance to the consulate and laughed and smiled and posed for photographs with their guests, as if the world had not changed beneath them and East had become West.
And as I said goodbye to them and left, I though, that in all happiness, there has to be a little sorrow. The Wall had come down, Germany was won, and the Gerbers were leaving.