Introduction to The Waste Sad Time


Index of Articles




Why a book?—Places, people and events—Of politics—Of diplomacy, ambassadors and embassies—Three models of behaviour—Excuses for laziness—Dedication

1. Myself

Roots—Life in a village in the Gangetic plains—Return of an indentured labourer from Mauritius—Jati—Beginning of intellectual exile—Simpleton

2. The Farthest West

The founding of the Indian Foreign Service—India’s civil servants: a view from a district—Indian embassy, Rabat—Learning Arabic and acquaintance with two Arabs—Morocco and France: the ben Barka affair—A rotten shipping empire, a crippled ship, Mao’s red book and green tea—Countering Pakistan: the first Conference of Heads of State of Islamic countries—Modern Hindus and science—Do not go to Nigeria

3. The Kingdom of One Million Elephants

Arriving in Vientiane—The International Control Commission on Indo-China—Proposals for war and peace and their dupes—Good life and many games—The real victor of Indo-China—A journey through Thailand

4. The Factory

Denizens of Indian Mandarinate—The Arab-Israeli dispute and India—Israel, the untouchable—The Yom Kippur War and after, seen from Delhi—Flood relief from Iraq—Gingerly treatment of Princess Ashraf Pahelvi—Plagiarism—Life in Delhi—In the groves of academe: encountering the British—Oxford, politics and intellectual life: Neville Maxwell and China, OPEC, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Kamal Hossein—Indira Gandhi’s emergency régime

5. Dans Paris

The City of Aphrodite—Bureaucratic intrigues—France in the autumn of 1975—Indira Gandhi’s emergency régime, seen from Paris—A nation of shopkeepers—Food and drinks for the powerful—Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Chirac; diplomats and street boys—France: the seeds of future developments—The Conference on International Economic Cooperation—Promoting India’s economic interests—Dabbling in international law: a tale of three used warplanes—The spirit of France—What do you do in Paris?—A huge con trick—GO TO JAIL, GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL

6. Disputatious Bengal

Bangladesh and India: mutual suspicion—A movie hall and a magazine—Freedom fighters and razakkars—Noisy quarrels—Two episodes—A naval skirmish—An assassination in Bangladesh—Intimations of a coup d’état—Driving a car into a boundary wall and creating a border incident

7. Mobutu’s Country and Other Places

Appearance and reality—My notoriety—My agenda—Offending a foreign minister—Mobutu’s friends—Methods of political control—Establishing contacts— Equatorial Guinea— Gabon—Microbiological research in equatorial Africa; Albert Schweitzer; a conversation with Omar Bongo— Central African Republic— Brazzaville—Befriending Mobutu’s Zaire—Travelling in Zaire—Control over mineral wealth—Hippopotami, lions and volcanoes—Diplomatic games—Changes in Africa—Parting thoughts

8. Delhi Durbar

A Moghul City—The Indian Council of World Affairs—Love of Africa; looking for a scapegoat—Dealing with Africa: ministers and their concerns; the Africa Fund; forging an Africa policy—Getting the sack—Befriending Africa—Working quietly—Failure to get a job—Beginning of a political intrigue

9. New York

Diplomats and the city—Indian Diaspora—Anxieties about minorities in India—The importance of India—Selling India’s economic reforms: a farce—Human rights of Kashmiris—New York Jews; diplomatic relations with Israel—Making friends in the USA: conversations with Henry Kissinger; a meeting in Cambridge; the image of India— America’s triumphs; advice to Delhi—Irreverence

10. The Ghost of St. Kitts

My reputation—My hand and seal and the stir they caused

11. The Blacks

Going to a hell called Khartoum and living there—Indians and India—My tasks—Sharia law and Islam—A haven for terrorists—Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin Laden—Hassan El Turabi—Changing India’s position on human rights in Sudan—Countering Pakistan: an international Islamic meet in Khartoum—An assassination plot—Normalisation of Indo-Sudanese relations—Campaigns to fend off Pakistani diplomatic offensives—Travelling in Dar Fur; legends and reality—Petroleum—Heretical thoughts about India

12. The Debris of Utopia

Living in Kyiv—Ukrainian tanks for Pakistan—Shoring up the pieces of Indo-Soviet relations—An Armenian President in India—Armenian identity—Reinventing Georgian nationalism—Nationalism in Ukraine— Battle for Ukraine—Religion in Ukraine— Crimea—The Potemkin steps

13. Krung Thep Mahanakhon

India’s place in modern Thai worldview—Hinduism in Thailand—Religion in Thailand—Southern Thailand: Islam—The Chinese in Thailand—Promoting Indian culture— Thailand’s Buddhist links—Financial and economic crisis— India’s nuclear tests—A friendship—Swan-song—Punishment

14. Deserts of Vast Eternity  

Durability and reach of what people create—Religion—Science and technology—Politics—Achievements of diplomacy—The party goes on


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