Mumbai: Three years into our marriage we had planned to take a trip to Srinagar and enjoy a second honeymoon on a houseboat. That was not to be. Air Headquarters informed me that I had been posted to the Indian Embassy in Paris as Assistant Air Attaché for a period of four years
It took less than a fraction of a second for us to make the choice. And before anyone could say “ooh la la”’ we packed our bags and headed for Paris.
In the many pieces I have written I have always avoided writing about some very difficult and ugly situations I had to deal with.
Now with crusader Anna Hazare encouraging ordinary people to expose corruption it is time to write about my tryst with the demon, in of all places, the Indian Embassy in Paris, specifically in the office of the Air Attache.
For the Indian Air force, France was a favoured son. The Ouragan (or Toofani), the Mystere fighter aircraft were our strength. More aircraft and above all a continuous supply of spare parts kept us in daily contact with Marcel D’assault and other providers.
There were three of us. My Boss the Air Attache, a Group Captain, another officer from the Accounts Dept who did not have diplomatic status and me as the Asst. Air Attache.
Types of corruption
Of the Soul. My boss wanted me to send my wife to “help”. at his weekly cocktail parties where he had an opportunity to inflate his entertainment bills. My wife saw no problem in helping the Boss’ wife.
When I went to pick her up I discovered that she was confined to the kitchen and not permitted to join the guests. My colleague had no problem with it. Sychophancy was his major strength
I told my Boss my wife would not be available as “kitchen help”. That started a very vengeful relationship.
To make matters worse I told my colleague that selling highly discounted petrol coupons and duty free liquor to friends from the aviation industry was both shameful and corrupt.
I could have become a whistler blower but that was an unfamiliar terminology in 1959, so I became “persona non grata”.
I was so used to standing up for my values and beliefs and facing the music and converting it as an opportunity to dance that Thecla and I, both good dancers continued to have a great time making a large number of friends with our fluency in spoken French. Some of these still communicate with us and have come and stayed with us in Goa
We were also enjoying making our first baby. Christophe’s god parents are French.Christianne and Bernard Wacquet. (Have sent you a pic)
From “personna non grata” I became an enemy with whom it was necessary to sleep with. I received an invitaton to join the “ten percent club of two”
When I declined I was told I would be repatriated to India in disgrace.
The then Ambassador was a wimp, an ex INA member and colleague of Subash Chandra Bose and was surely tempted by the ten percent on every consignment despatched to India. I missed joining the millionare’s club but could sleep like a baby every night.
More excitement. A confidential report reached Air Headquarters saying “Squadron Leader George Menezes has become an alcoholic and should be sent back to India.”
See how the Lord works.
The report arrived at the desk of Air Vice Marshal Erlich Pinto, Head of Personnel. An old family friend, his first concern was my health, specially my liver. He wrote to the new Ambassador , the great Nawab Ali Yavar Jung.
Air headquarters was told of my sterling qualities and the Ambassador added that George is almost a teetotaler.
Enquires were conducted with military efficiency and the next Embassy function found us bidding a not so tearful farewell to my Boss who was being repatriated.
Years later someone asked a question about my boss’s assets in Paris and he was “cashiered” out of service in disgrace.
George Menezes, the author is an ex Squadron Leader of the Indian Air Force. The article has been published with permission. Original article on www.georgemenace.com