The official in charge of the Prime Minister's foreign tour programmes was telling me this morning: "After the Prime Minister's visit to Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, there is not country left that he has not visited in his tow years as Prime Minister."
"That is good," I said.
"That is bad," the official said. "The prime minister has go some where, he just can't sit at home. What will the world leaders say! What kind of a stay-at-home prime minister we have got!"
"When does he have to go abroad again?" I asked.
"Well, next week should be alright, but we may just manage to skip a week by sending him to Orissa or Andamans," the official said. "But in November he has to go somewhere abroad. We have got a whole new batch of journalists with all their woollen clothes packed, ready to accompany him."
"November is a long way off, you will find something by then for the prime minister to visit," I said.
"November is not that far, it will be on us before we know it," the official said. "And it is not so easy arranging a prime minister visit, we have to prepare for it. do you realise that it takes all of two hours for Air-India to cancel one of its scheduled Boeing flights, cancel the tickets of all the passengers booked on it, put in special features for the VIPs, organise a crew that the prime minister does not dislike too much, and charter it for the prime minister's tour."
"I see what you mean," I said.
The official pointed to a map covered with red flags: "All the red flags indicate the countries that the prime minister has visited and there is not one country left with out a red flag. I really do not know where to fit him in."
"You can't send him to one of the countries he has already visited, could you?" I asked.
"Actually, the prime minister would not know if he visits the same country again, especially some of the smaller ones, he has been travelling so much," the official said. "But the people in that country will know. They will wonder why the Indian prime minister has come again, especially as it is not Moscow."
"That's tough," I said. "I can see you have got a difficult job."
"Very difficult," the official said. "Sometimes I wish I was in charge of Mr. Zail Sing's foreign tours. Then there would be the whole world, except Nepal, to choose from."