A Strange But True Tale
14.11.2007 80 °F
Laura and I have returned from a fabulous beach weekend in Goa, and I'll write a full update on that soon just to make you all jealous. But until then, here is a quick story from one of our colleagues. Please note, the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).
Sanjeev is an Indian-American volunteer for the Clinton Foundation, working in a state in South India. A few weeks ago, he went to the airport along with another American volunteer, Chris, to pickup a shipment of 200 HIV testing kits. The shipment was so large that they had to rent a small truck in addition to the Jeep that they came in, so Sanjeev rode back in the Jeep and Chris in the truck. A few miles down the road, the police pulled over the truck and began arguing with the driver. This is not entirely uncommon, as the police are generally on the corrupt side and merely seeking a bribe. Give them a few dollars and you can be on your way. Unfortunately, neither Chris nor Sanjeev spoke the local dialect, so they had no idea what was happening. After exchanging words for a few minutes with the driver, one of the police officers hopping in the truck and directed the driver down a side road with Chris riding shotgun.
Sanjeev, riding in the Jeep, began to get a bit nervous. He decided the best course of action would be to call his mother at home in America, just to inform her of the situation. He promised to call her back as soon as the situation was resolved, and followed the truck in his Jeep. Soon the policeman stopped them at a police station, took a small bribe, and sent them on their way - no harm done. The problem was that Sanjeev forgot to call back his mother.
His mother conferred with his sister, who, in a panic, called the Harlem office of the Clinton Foundation to apprise them of the situation. The Harlem office, which is unaffiliated with the HIV/AIDS Initiative, called the Quincy office, who promptly called Rajesh, one of the global heads of the HIV/AIDS Initiative and based in India. To make matters worse, somewhere in this little game of telephone the message got changed and Rajesh was informed by the Quincy office that one of his volunteers had been kidnapped by the police along with 200 HIV-positive KIDS.
Rajesh frantically called the country director, Ameeth, who immediately telephoned the state coordinator to ask what in world was going on. The puzzled state coordinator began updating him on the status of his meeting with several pediatricians. Ameeth stopped him and demanded to know the status of the kidnapped volunteers and the HIV-positive kids. This, of course, was met with even greater puzzlement, since Sanjeev and Chris were sitting on the other side of the room, perfectly safe, and decidedly not kidnapped.
Word was sent back up the chain that everything was fine, and a valuable lesson was learned by all - when you are in trouble with the police in a foreign country, don't call your mother until everything is resolved.