New Delhi: Doesn't the minister of culture know who the Prime Minister of New Zealand is? Especially when the Kiwi leader is on a trip to this country and was present at a meeting to talk about the tourism potential between the two countries.
Mahesh Sharma addressed John Key as "His Excellency Prime Minister McCullum", betraying his inability to distinguish between him and the other guest, former New Zealand cricket skipper Brendon McCullum.
The Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism repeated the name at least twice during his address, attracting gasps from the audience.
Bollywood star Sidharth Malhotra, who's the tourism ambassador for New Zealand, gave back to the minister when he mumbled a different name while addressing him. "It's payback," he said, probably with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
New Zealand's prime minister, of course, ignored the minister's gaffe saying that a direct flight between India and his country would be the next step to lift the number of tourists both ways.
Key, who addressed the gathering with a warm "Namaste, Sat Sri Akaal", said he was happy about having a "young ambassador" like Sidharth who connects with the youth. With around 43,000 tourists coming to New Zealand from India every year, Key said he hopes the numbers increase.
Malhotra presented a home-made statue of a lion to the prime minister saying it represented power, pride and confidence. "I hope this finds a place at your workplace or home, Sir," Sidharth said. The actor also invited Key for a "home cooked meal" at his residence.
During his maiden visit to New Zealand as tourism ambassador last year, Sidharth had met Key at his office and the prime minister had gifted the actor a jersey of the famous All Blacks rugby team.
Sidharth, who has done half a dozen films in Bollywood, is planning to leave for a 10-day tour to New Zealand next month to shoot for new tourism-related campaigns. He calls New Zealand his "third home" after Delhi, where he was born, and Mumbai where he now lives.