India 1987

 

There are all sorts of heroes. Some people think they are a hero. Some people hope they will be. A few people actually are heroes. Whichever they are, I prefer the ones who stay quiet. But at a drinks party, here in Delhi or probably anywhere in the world, everyone has something to say about themselves. The bearded stranger didn’t have anything heroic to talk about: he told us a few stories about the three weeks he had just spent travelling in Rajasthan. After that the story-telling escalated.

The tiger-hunter, an ex-Army guy, described his fights with pythons, his encounters with tigers. He felt they were heroic deeds. The guy from the IFC (International Finance Corporation) had to present his story in a similar vein: what a mark he had made on the financial productivity of the Maghreb countries and, as a reward, was now moving to China. The architect told us about wonderful things he’d built in difficult circumstances. The Sikh bureaucrat really was going to be a hero to many: he was helping to organise the Cricket World Cup for later in the year.

I was the host so I stayed quiet. The bearded stranger knew my niece back in London and he already knew part of my story. I had been the Admiral in charge of naval deployment and disinformation as we Indians fought against West and East Pakistan in 1971; I was credited by some with winning the war.