I know what follows sounds very pompous me trying to show off a bit too much. But pl pardon.
I was in discussions with my boss yday morning and my secretary came in to announce that the South African Ambassador was in our office and he wanted to see me. He had once about a year before come to our office and met us re some business proposals and to seek our inputs on what should go in the free trade pact proposed with India where it can be of mutual benefit.
It was highly unusual someone ranking so high coming in like this – my boss gave my secretary a stern look and visual dress down for his foolishness. I said that it could be some consul staff or someone who he has misunderstood.
Sure enough there was a reminder after 2 minutes from our staff in the meeting who were perhaps flustered. I excused from my boss and went across to the conference hall – where indeed there was the High Commissioner (as Ambassadors between Commonwealth countries are called). I was perplexed. I thought that it would have been a big goof up by my secretary who perhaps would have fixed up the meeting but forgot to update my calendar. My confusion must have showed since those inside the meeting already clarified that there was no prior appointment but the HC felt that my presence would lend continuity and hence the request.
I could not ask him the purpose and quietly sat there to see how things developed. He had come there with some private parties owning large tracts of land for lease for plantation to explore some development proposals. He also sat through to see in what manner he should facilitate the proposal with his government and how he should push things with the Indian govt re the proposal.
In India if you so much as see any businessman and politician or bureaucrats within the same postal district there is so much noise and ruckus as if they are sworn enemies and they should ideally exist in denial of each other. If the Bureaucracy and politician get so little feedback from each other how are they to evolve meaningful policies, I wonder.
Recently in Bali, I liked a particular piece of Saraswati bust size in crocodile wood (that is what they claimed anyway). Looked magnificent and I thought I should have it in my drawing room. Croc wood is like Cedar and makes for fine carving and it exudes some oil which gives it some added sheen. This was just outside the main entrance to Airport. I thought I would get better carvings inside the airport duty free shops and checked in. But after passing thruough the check in, security, taxes (there is some strange system there), and immigration I went over to duty frees but could not locate an equivalent piece.
And by that time I was madly in love with the piece and wanted to get out of the airport to get it (after my exit had been stamped). I went and asked the Chief of Immigration and he asked me why, what piece, which shop, and how is it important, etc. Finally ‘is that so important and you can’t do without it’. I replied ‘it is important to me but i don’t know if you would see it the same way.’ He gave me a once over with his eyes and said, ‘OK please deposit the passport here and tell my name to whosoever asks. Although they are not in my control they would mostly oblige. On return ask to bypass the immigration and collect the passport’.
That is what I did. I wonder such a thing would be feasible in India. The official would have hummed and hawed till i ran out of time or got frustrated and left.
So much for ease of doing business … we have a long way to go.