She was a flight attendant - the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Dark, dark skin ... exquisite features ... lovely black hair ... a superb figure ... a sparkling smile and bright, really bright, blue eyes.

We were flying Air India from New Delhi to Srinagar in Kashmir where we had rented - you could hardly call it chartered - a houseboat on Dal Lake.

Our houseboat - the CALIFORNIA - was not anchored off shore as I had expected. Rather, the bow was imbedded on the beach surrounded by high grass. The stem, with its comfortable lounging area, faced the lake with the Himalayan Mountains rising in the background.

Assigned to us was a crew, if you call it that, made up of a man who served our meals which were cooked ashore, another to make the beds and keep everything tidy and a third to run the outboard motor boat we had to use to go anywhere.

After four interesting days, we were to return to New Delhi. Our crew assembled to receive the expected gratuities. A fourth appeared, one we hadn't seen before.

He was the most disreputable, slovenly, unkempt, messy, bedraggled man I'd ever seen. When I asked who he was, I was told he'd been our cook. I almost vomited.

India is a land of contrasts.