Pawan gives his friendships the same serious attention he gives his career. And now his buddies have been bidding him adieu for the past few months with a rare fondness. When he arrives (no doubt transiting between more adieus) I pull his leg about how his frenzied farewells have provided endless fodder for gossip columnists. And so he quotes: Gulshan parast hoon, mujhe gul hi nahin azeez. Kaanton se bhi nibah kiye jaa raha hoon main (I live among the blossoms, but I do not care only for the flowers, I have learnt to abide with the thorns as well).
Meanwhile, the petite Punjabi chef, Veena Arora, who reassures me that she actually grew up in Bangkok, quickly resolves our dietary queries. We begin with a tangy and spicy mushroom salad followed by a clear chicken soup (Kaeng Cherd Kai Soup) for Pawan and a Tom Yum Phak, a delicately flavoured vegetable soup for me. I am thrilled because nothing tastes Punjabi and no one has barged in to pump Pawans hand.
Pawan looks back. Ten years, 10 books. Hes been juggling three jobsdiplomat, spokesperson for the government, authorand six columns every month. But his lament is that people only see him as part of the glamour world, they have no idea of the hard work he puts in.
Were now into the main coursehaving already polished off the Por Pia Chae, the crisp spring rollswhich for Pawan is Kaeng Kung, or prawns cooked in Thai curry. I ask for Kaeng Kheow Waan Chae, assorted vegetables cooked in green curry, with a rich aroma of basil.
We move onto his new assignment, ambassador at Cyprus. Hes going there for the first time with his wife, mother, three children and his dogs. Also looming on the horizon is the launch of An Anthology of Erotic Literature. While both of us dip into colourful water chestnuts (Thub Thim Krob), Pawan has a quick cigarette. This meal has been a vast improvement over cold dosas and foul coffee. However, Pawan, Ill miss those, too.