So e-mails went to and fro, the most progressive mill with its ISO:14001 accreditation was dusted off and warned to present arms and go woof, presentations were prepared. On the appointed day our man went off to escort them from the hotel. And vanished. Repeated phone calls got a delayed response. The delegation would also be delayed. Having turned up one hour late (1 HOUR? If any of OUR delegations were 10 minutes late for a meeting we’d get a Note Verbale from the local Mission!), they turned out to be interesting. The shaven-headed leader looked like a retired bouncer, though he displayed no bulge in the jacket under the left armpit. He was accompanied by
(a) a Sleek Chap in a grey sharkskin suit, black shirt, no tie, who turned out to be a manufacturer of women’s undergarments (we warned him that our particular fibre would be MOST unsuitable. It itches. Like crazy!). One of my friends from the industry nodded sagely and said “Very interesting!” I desperately avoided his eye for the next ten minutes.
(b) an unshaven lantern-jawed man in a collared T and baggy trousers belted near his ribs, whose function was never quite clear
(c) a representative of their Prime Minister’s office, a sad-eyed little man in a suit, very Keyser Shoze (hey, HE was Turkish, after all)
(d) a Very Large Man who “reprrezaints our fffarming”, obviously uncomfortable in a new suit, who understood no English, slowed down our presentation because he required translation, and ignored the translation as soon as refreshments were served, working his way left-handed through three chocolate pastries from Flury’s
(e) a man with a video camera. He looked like he would go “Pssttt! Dirty pictures?” any moment but didn’t. Instead, he wandered all over the conference room focussing on EVERYthing, including, so help me Cthulhu, the WALLS for a full 30 seconds.
We rolled out our schpiel. They were most appreciative. The Leader peremptorily ordered the manufacturers to send samples over to his hotel room, “ve haff only today, owr flaht iz at nahn thairrty tomorrow”. We perked up, “exports” and “product modification” lighting up in neon thought balloons over our heads. Then they pulled out a little card about 10 inches long with threads wound round it. And asked “So, this mehl ve go to, they mek hemp?” Hemp? Hemp. After the vaudeville act, it became clear that Slick Man wanted hemp because “itt provides sehport”. Support what, I was about to ask. Then I recalled his area of interest and thought better of it.
Sorry, we have no hemp. We don’t make hemp. We don’t know hemp from ice-cream (well, OFFICIALLY!) As far as we know, NObody in this country grows hemp. It’s been banned since 1985, people tend to smoke it instead of making yarn out of it, you know? Ask Arnie over in California, he has the same problem.
Leader Man was most dismissive. “Tzair is hemp in Eendia, Ay haff documents.” May I SEE those documents, please? Another dismissive wave - they’re not here, but I’ve READ them. There IS Indian hemp.
I made a quick exit to my office, consulted The Great God Google. Yes, there IS “Indian hemp”. It’s a generic term. The largest processors are in Canada and (believe this!) California (Arnie, you’re missing something here!). There are NO hemp processors in India. THIS was why you took 3 hours of my working day?!
Silence. Great shrugs. Exit delegation, somewhat sheepishly.
All in a day’s work.