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Mistaken identity

By Nickunj Malik - Dec 20,2017 - Last updated at Dec 20,2017

For no apparent fault of his, last week, my husband got mistaken for the US ambassador to Mauritius. Though I realised it was a blunder, I did not make the effort of correcting it immediately. I mean, as new inhabitants in a foreign country, it did not hurt to acquire some special privileges, even if they were given by default.

Moreover, I quite liked the idea of being the wife of a diplomat. It had more substance to it, though the nation we were supposedly representing was not the flavour of the season, so to speak. Especially after Mr Trump opened a Pandora’s box with his Jerusalem decision, breaking with decades of American and international policy and defying dire worldwide warnings. It was scary to contemplate how much spin doctoring his envoys would have to do in the coming months.

Meanwhile, I refrained from telling the voice on the phone that His Excellency was, in fact, not His Excellency at all. One more reason was that after my calling the Mauritius Telecom offices repeatedly over the last several days, this was the first time they had called me back, and it took me a split second to get over the unexpected turn of events. I had been chasing them to get the fibre optic cable connection installed for the Internet so that I could link up with the rest of the world but during each call, I was made to wait for long periods, listening to the robotic instructions on a loop, before anyone would answer. They spoke to me in French, Creole and finally English, when they figured that I could not understand a word of the earlier two and assured me that they would send someone over to the house soon. Needless to say, I waited in vain as no one turned up.

So when the voice on the phone asked if it was the house of the American ambassador I dropped the receiver in surprise. Collecting my wits, I mumbled a response, which was also incoherent to my own ears. I think they took it as an affirmation because the effect was like the proverbial grease lightening. The woman’s tone became friendliness personified as she apologised for the delay in service. She said that His Excellency’s request would immediately be put on fast track, which she would be monitoring everyday, and a team of people would be deployed so that the installation gets done smoothly, in the shortest possible time.

I was literally and figuratively dumb struck because I had never witnessed such a U-turn in my life. The voice at the other end took my silence as a sign of displeasure and kept imploring for my forgiveness. Belatedly I realised that I had to say something; my conscience urged me to come out with the truth though my head said I should carry on with the deception till the job was completed. But before I could decide, the line got disconnected.

The mechanics arrived to my house the very next day.

“Why is everybody behaving strangely?” my husband questioned. 

“What do you mean?” I pretended ignorance.

“They think this is the house of the US ambassador,” he stated.

“Please keep up the charade,” I whispered. 

“That is impossible,” he said.

“Why? You are diplomatic enough,” I mumbled. 

“But you are not,” he responded. 

“What have I got to do with it?” I asked. 

“Their new envoy happens to be a lady,” he laughed.

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Comments

Ah, the plot thickens! Coming weekly reports may describe a car chase and a heli lift a la Mr and Mrs Smith.

At least the line got through even if the cloak and dagger shenanigans of diplomatic lives did not last so long.

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