Our President, the dour faced Pratibha Patil has never been a personal favourite. The last time she was in Mumbai, there were no less than 47 cars in her convoy. Yup. 47. I counted. We pay for them. But that apart, the convoy created the worst traffic snarls ever, and people were not amused. The next time, her minders advised her to take a chopper to the airport - and look what happened! A near miss with a commercial flight.... and a whole lot of buck passing since then. The most startling factoid to emerge from this episode is that there's no helipad at Mumbai airport! Can you believe this? India's busiest commercial hub does not boast of a simple facility like a helipad.... and the President's chopper lands unexpectedly on the airstrip reserved for passenger carrying jets. With an enquiry on in full swing, authorities are busy doing what they do best - covering their own derrieres and blaming everyone else. The Air Chief thundered that his IAF choppers were not at fault. Air traffic controllers insist they had no prior information about those choppers, while unnamed officials are busy creating ridiculous alibis. The point is, if this can happen to VVIPs, toh hamara kya hoga Kaliya?
Next week I am off to Colombo. The last time I was there, a few months ago, there was curfew every night, and bombs exploding every few metres. My daughter who was with me, got so spooked, she refused to leave the hotel . This time, I have another daughter accompanying me, and she is spooked before landing. Colombo happens to be one of my favourite destinations. And nothing will deter me from going there. Who says Mumbai is any safer? But it is the nightmare at Mumbai airport that scares me far more than rebel bombs going off in Sri Lanka. Each time I jump on a flight, it is with a small prayer on my lips. The security measures here are a joke. I met a Swiss lady who'd boarded the flight with her daughter with the wrong boarding cards that nobody had detected ! Yeh hai Mumbai, meri jaan.
Talking of cards, someone called me from Mantralaya yesterday to say, " Madam, last time your name was missing from the voter regstration system. Well, this time your name is there - but husband's is missing!" Wow!! Was I supposed to applaud? Call that progress?