I’ve never known Pertie to get so excited. Normally, he’s a placid, laid-back sort of chap. Even when the waiter at the Gymkhana Club poured chicken curry into his lap all he could bring himself to say was a gentle ‘Steady on, old chap’. Jeeves would have been proud of him. But this occasion was very different.
“Do you know how they propose to treat Vijay Mallya?” His voice was booming. I had to hold the telephone receiver almost at arm’s length. “According to NDTV he’s going to have a television set, a personal toilet and proper bedding, a washing area and a courtyard to take a stroll in the sunlight. And that’s in jail and not in his own home!”
“Well Pertie”, I said, trying to soothe him. “What’s wrong with all of that? If we hope to extradite him the Indian authorities need to convince the Brits that our jails are habitable. Otherwise they won’t send him back. It’s as simple as that.”
Pertie wasn’t convinced. Indeed, he harrumphed. Or was it a snort? At any rate, it was defiantly dismissive. “Have you ever seen the inside of a prison in India? And which convict gets his own TV and loo? In fact you only hear of this sort of thing in Scandinavia.”
In fact the NDTV report has further delightful details. “The barrack in which Mr Mallya will be lodged is east-facing so it has a lot of sunlight too…The cell has cross ventilation with a window on opposite sides.”
And the report adds, tantalisingly, “food is served four times during the day.” Pertie had all these details at his fingertips. They had made such a strong impression on him that they had also become fixed in his mind. One by one he rattled them off.
“I can’t believe this is how the average Indian prisoner is treated in jail. And if they’re laying on special treatment for Vijay Mallya that’s hardly fair or, even, justified.”
As Pertie’s thoughts switched from amazement to thoughtful reflection his voice and manner calmed down. But I could sense anger lurking not far behind.
“Either this is an elaborate attempt to con the Brits or it’s simply wrong. If he’s found guilty and goes to jail you cannot treat Mallya like a VIP whilst all the other prisoners are treated like scum! You can be certain there will be protests. Someone is bound to go to court.”
Pertie had a good point. Either the Central Bureau of Investigation, who submitted a six-minute video of the jail to the Brits, is misleading them or it intends to treat Mallya like a Maharaja. Neither would be justified and both could provoke public fury.
“It seems to me,” said Pertie, now a lot more in control of himself, “even in jail Mallya’s good times won’t be over! Some blokes have all the luck in the world.”
“What do you propose to do?” I asked. I’m not sure why I put that question. After all, what could he do? It just popped out. But Pertie seemed prepared for it.
“Well, one thing’s for certain.” he shot back. “If I ever end up in jail I’m going to demand my own telly and loo. But I wonder if they’ll stretch to wine and cheese? I don’t care about the light and cross ventilation but a drink and a view of the ocean as the sun goes down would be a wonderful way of making jail acceptable!”