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   The French have the best national day celebrations... (July 15, 1991)

The French have the best national day celebrations in Bombay. They invite people indiscriminately, which means anybody who studied French in school and still retains a smattering of the language. They serve genuine champagne (not the domestic Madame Pompadour) and are not stingy about it, have authentic cheeses and meats. And they do not have speeches and the raising of toasts, and not once during the evening of celebrations does anybdoy mention Mosieur Mitterrand, or the lady prime minister, whatever her name is.

Yesterday, (July 14) celebrations were in keeping with tradition. First, the consul-general's reception on the Oberoi, then the Alliance Francaise ball in the basement of the same hotel.

The Americans had their celebrations a couple of weeks earlier, on July 4, within the consul-general's residence within the consulate.

They are, I understand, on an economy drive, though why they should need one I do not know. The guests one I do not know. The guests were limited, no wives were invited (which was sensible), and if a woman was invited, because of her associations with the consulate, then her husband was not. The dress was formal and everything else was formal, which is another things I do not understand. Because the Americans are the most genuinely and endearingly informal people in their own country.

They even had a chief guest in the form of the mayor of Bombay. He was asked to raise a toast, which he converted into a short (for him) speech in Marathi. The Americans, who natually did not know Marathi, and the Indians, who should have know it but did not, stood around and tapped their toes.

The Russain have their national day function at the Taj. Their guest list is even bigger than that of the French, and, in the past, when vodka flowed like scotch, everybody made it a point to attend. Unforunately, Mr. Gorbahov's arrival has brought in official prohibition.

Some of the Arab-Muslim countires also do not serve liquor, but this is understandable. The Iran consulate does not even invite women, which is also understandable. But there are other Arab countries which are very generous with liquor. The Egyptians, who must be the msot sophisticated among the Arabs, fall in this category and their national day is in the offing. I am looking forward to it.

I do not know if the Australians celebrate their natinal day, or it they have one. All I know about Australia is that it plays cricket, and it plays to win, which is how it should be.

The British do not have a national day, they have Queen's birthday. When they British deputy high commissioner used to stay at Jinah House, they used to have most impressive parties at what must be one of the best houses and gardens in Bombay. Toasts to the Queen and the President of India would be raised and a bugler would play in the background.

The poor Israel is continue to have problems. The five-star hotels would not have them, because their Arab customers would stop patronising them, and clubs wold make all sorts of conditions before they would allow them to use their premises. Hope all that will change now. If we can accept South Africa, we can accept South Africa, we can accpet Israel with a little more grace.

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