If I doubted the fringe benefits of an invitation "By Command of His Majesty the King," I knew better even before reaching Nepal. I was due into New Delhi on a Pan American flight from Hong Kong at 4 a.m. on the 17th, to connect at 7:30 a.m. the same morning with the twice-weekly Royal Nepal Airlines flight to Kathmandu. Three and a half hours should have been ample time to make the connection, but I had been warned that the ways of Indian customs were such that it was barely time at all. Furthermore, I was carrying a rifle, which was certain to cause all kinds of delay. To further complicate things, the RNAC flight left from a different airport, necessitating not only a drive to the opposite end of the city but transfer of my rifle under bond.
"You'll be in Delhi at least a week," one optimistic friend had advised.
To make certain that I was not, I inundated the New York, Hong Kong and New Delhi offices of Pan American with cables requesting assistance. The messages got there in time, but my plane did not. We were delayed two and a half hours in Hong Kong and another hour detouring around Vietnam. It was exactly 7:35 a.m. when we landed. The next flight to Kathmandu was three days later. I was off the plane almost before the stairs were in place, and halfway across the runway before Indian customs caught up with me.
"Halt, madam!" a small dark man puffed. "You must go with the line!"
"I must find Pan American," I puffed back. "I have to make the 7:30 flight to Kathmandu."
"Impossible, madam. It is too late. Besides, you must go with the line."
"It is never too late," I shouted, outdistancing him. Men in uniforms ran toward me. They were very excited. One of them blew on a whistle. I shouted, "Pan American! Kathmandu! Pan American!" Finally I reached what looked like a cargo shed and bolted through the door. I crashed head-on into a great, fat man in a caracul cap, an Indian Sydney Greenstreet.
"Permit me, madam," he said, helping me to my feet and extending his card. "I am Nathan of Pan American. You are the guest of His Majesty?" Frantically I explained that I would not be for long if I did not get to Kathmandu that day. "Follow me," he said, brushing aside my pursuers. We raced down one corridor and along another, Nathan shouting orders. Suddenly, customs men were slapping at my bags with their chalk. "Hurry!" Nathan shouted. "Run!"
"I'm missing a big green package," I called, "my gift for His Majesty."
"Big green package," Nathan screamed into the air, snapping his fingers. A grimy young porter emerged from the crowd with the package.