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   I met an American tourist in town this morning... (August 28, 1991)

I met an American tourist in town this morning, and, in keeping with my policy of being friendly and hospitable to foreign visitors, I started a conversation with his: "How do you like India? Come to see the Taj Mahal?"

"No, not the Taj," the American said. "I have come to India to see the world's last communists. All over the world they have disapperaed, but I understand there are a few still existing here."

"Well, yes," I said, "we have CPM, that's the Marxists, and CPI, that's the Stalinits, and Mr. Jyoti Basu and Mr. Surjit Singh and Indo-Soviet Friendship Society. Oh, we have a lot of communists, you will enjoy that."

"I am glad to hear that," said the American. "In the West they have become collector's items. American collectors and research scholars have been touring all over the Societ Union and East European countries in search of communists and have not been able to locate a single one."

"Yes, outside India they have vanished, I am told," I said.

"They are a dying species," the tourist said. "At the last count, only eight had survived in Moscow, and because they were such tough communists and stood the ravages of time, communist historians had given them the name of hardliners. But two of these have killed themselves and now we are left with only six."

"Sad," I said.

"I do not know what the world would have done it there were no Indian communists," the American siad. "Really, the world owes a debt of gratitude to the great Indian communist movement."

"India is a great country, it has all the religions of the world and all the socio-political ideologies," I said. "Naturally, we are very pround of our leftist heritage. And we would be happy to share it with our American friends. After all, we are the two greatest democracies in the world."

"That's very kind of you," said the American.

"Now let me see, perhaps, I could write to one of my friends in the Ananda Bazar Patrika and he could fix up an appointment for you with Mr. Jyoti Basu," I said. "I am not promising, but I will try."

"That would be marvellous," the American said. "Imagine meeting the world's greatest surviving communists, face to face. Possibly we could have our picture takes together."

"I will see what can be done," I said.

"Tell me, said the American, "is ther any risk of the Indian communists also disappearing?"

"No, not a chance," I said. "Who will bother to have a coup against Mr. Jyoti Basu!"

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