Like Mr. Khushwant Singh, I am also counting how many foreign trips I have made at which foreign government or agencyâ€™s invitation and expense and does that make me a spy or an associate of a spyring.
Several years ago, I was invited by Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Tourist Bureau to their clean and disciplined city state. I travelled first-class, drank Singaporeâ€™s own Tigar Beer, among other things, had several elaborate Chinese meals and an interesting Chinese breakfast with a salted porridge, stayed at the Holiday Inn on Orchard Road, returned with a pair of ear-phones, which may be considered as espionage equipment.
I wonder if that puts me on the spy list. And, incidentally, the then commercial editor of The Times of India, one Mr. Sharma, was also with me on the trip. This, for the information of the intelligence bureau.
Another trip to the fabulous East I made was at the invitation of the Cathay Pacific and Peninsula Hotels. I travelled economy class from Bombay to Hong Kong, Marco Polo class from Hong Kong to Bangkok and first class Bangkok to Bombay. The airlineâ€™s intention, possibly for some nefarious brainwashing purposes, was to expose me to all its classes of travel. I liked the first class best, though the other classes vice to everybody is-if you go east, go Cathay.
I was once invited to Iraq, to observe the first anniversary of Iraqâ€™s war with Iran. At that time, it was thought that war was at its concluding stages. I flew Iraq Airlines-which was not the best airline I have travelled free in, but then it was operating under difficult circumstances-stayed tow full weeks in Baghdad and went everywhere that the Iraqi government put me in an air-conditioned bus and took me to. I was even taken on the warfront, a part of territory captured from Iran.
That, I think, should interest who ever is in charge of detecting espionage activities. I would also like to point out that on this very same free trip was Mr. Shankar Dayal Sharma presently governor or Punjab, and he was a much more honoured guest of the alien government than I was.
I was invited to West Germany, spent two weeks there, travelling from Heidelberg to the Bavarian Forests and one brief afternoonâ€™s visit across the Berline Wall. I returned and wrote glossy pieces about West Germany, ran down East Germany, no matter how brief my view of it was.
And I was invited to the US for a month, flying Pan-Am, which is the airline of the West, being taken from Washington to San Franciso and back to New York. The American government eve gave me 94 dollars per day as spending money, which is a comfortable sum, especially as a number of hotels give heavy deductions to government guests.
Unfortunately, I have not been invited to Taiwan. But that may be because I am neither a congressman nor an opposition leader.