Saigon – The Beautiful City

In Saigon itself which was our base, death seemed to chase us but we escaped. There were theatres in Saigon to which we would go for watching pictures and the Viet Cong put a bomb and when we just came out of the theatre it would burst killing instantly those were still inside.

Or we would go to a floating restaurant on the river mouth and we had choice food and Viet Cong would have planted a bomb which would burst soon after we left the floating restaurant.

My Wife Learning French
I used to go to the office daily when my wife was left with a Vietnamese companion who used to teach her French and she in turn would teach English to the Vietnamese friends.

We had access to the American food supply and could get cheaply apples, oranges, and all kinds of fruits imported from America.

The American troops used to bomb Vietnam in a bid to destroy the communists. It was at this time an American photographed the famous picture of girl running naked to escape from the napalm bomb that fell on her hut at the night. This picture made her famous and she later escaped to the US and settled down there.

What We Disliked in Vietnam
Some of the Vietnamese’s practices of food did not appeal to us. For example back home we used to eat the mango in salt water and the “uppilittathu” was used as a side dish with rice. But the Vietnamese used to eat chicken eggs in salt water. Sometimes this will be half-chicken about to be born. This was sold in the streets and the Vietnamese used to eat this delicious side dish with rice on the roads.

We used to have Indian food in an Indian restaurant run by a Sri Lankan. We used to have Kerala or Sri Lankan-style vegetarian food relished not only by us but also our Canadian friends. The suppliers were girls who knew English and French and who could talk to the customers.

The Americans did not visit this restaurant and we found it was a very safe place for spending time in air-conditioned comfort.

Prostitution in Saigon
Prostitution was rampant in Saigon. Most Indian staff came to Saigon without their family because it was not a family station for outsiders. The day I and my wife landed, a Vietnamese prostitute knocked at our door but finding myself with a woman retreated. The Indian staff had their concubine who used to come every night to sleep with them. The Americans also took advantage of the situation. It was such that every lamp post in the evening had a Vietnamese girl waiting to be picked up for the night.

How war conditions could completely change the human beings struggling for existence.

Brahmin from India
My predecessor was a Brahmin from Andhra Pradesh. He had not sought permission for bringing his wife. He was also very much elder to me. He had a Vietnamese concubine who came to him every night.

Jesus and Confucius
Once we were accosted by a Vietnamese man and taken to a temple which had statues of Buddha, Jesus Christ, Confucius, etc. It was elaborately decorated and I was reminded of Akbar’s Din-E-Ilahi which was a concoction of the religions of the world. This showed that the Vietnamese were very creative and along with war and prostitution, spirituality also thrived in Vietnam. The sermon in French the priest was making was translated to us in English by a Vietnamese girl who said that Don’t do anything to others which you do not want others to do to you. I realized that Confucius was alive and Jesus was also along with him.

In Vietnam we were asked where we would like to be posted. We were given the choice of going back to India or to Indian High Commission in Karachi.

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