FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
An Indian diplomat’s ‘second life’
Updated:Jan 4, 2016
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Navtej Sarna, the newly appointed Indian High Commissioner to the UK, belongs to the crop of writers who have come to be known as the 'MEA school of literature'. However, he can also claim the distinction of separating his professional and literary life in a succinct way.
 
As his ninth book 'Second Thought' hits the shelves, the seasoned diplomat says that nothing stops him from living his "second life" - that of a writer - to the fullest.
 
The book, a collection of his columns that appeared in 'The Hindu' for over seven years, takes the reader down the nostalgic path of a literary journey interlaced with private memories. The collection ranges from classics to contemporary writers. From Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene to J.M. Coetzee to Orhan Pamuk, Sarna's evocative book serves as an easy guide to the best of world literature. Besides exploring literary themes, haunts and tombstones of literature's greats, the collection also features conversations with authors like Khushwant Singh, Mario Vargas Llosa and Israeli writer Amos Oz.
 
As Sarna - who has the distinction of being the longest-serving spokesperson of the external affairs ministry - gears up to take up his new challenge later this month, he told IANS in a freewheeling conversation that his next book will have to wait a while as he has a daunting job ahead as the new envoy to one of the India's most imporant diplomatic, strategic and trading partners.
 
After reading the book, one tends to instinctively pick up a Somerset Maugham or an Anton Chekhov. It is a sort of handbook on good books to read, an easy guide to the best in literature.
 
Excerpts from the interview:
 
Q: Your book talks mostly about writers and their mental landscape.
 
A: There are different aspects of writers which another writer is curious to know. I am curious to know about the magic formula, about writers and their mental landscape. There is a curiosity about the language, different narratives, which certain writers experiment with. It helps one's craft in knowing the structure of a particular book. I have written mostly about 20th century classical writers whose different styles helped me a lot.
 
Q: How do you keep the worlds of a writer and a diplomat apart and together at the same time?
 
A: It has always been a challenge and I have been doing it for the last 35 years. It's my second life. I decide consciously not to write about my life as a diplomat. It makes it easier to sustain both lives. I lived both the facets of my lives comfortably and I have balanced it in a very cautious way. I have a lot of friends from both the fields.
 
Q: Tell us about the 'MEA School of Literature'
 
A: We have several writers who published their works and are being called the 'MEA School of Literature'. It feels good. For instance, there is Pavan Varma, Vikas Swarup and a couple of more writers among us.
 
Q: Throw some light on tracing Hemingway in Havana, who had a great influence on you...
 
A: Hemingway is an iconic writer and I visited his home in Havana. There are legends of about his extravagance. They have turned his house into a museum; it has his bars, fishing boats, grave of his pets, guns, boots, African jackets, among many other things. Another thing I found out is that Hemingway used to scribble down his weight in the bathroom daily. Hemingway was easy to track. It is a whole industry.
 
Q: The book has a strong thread of nostalgia running through it.
 
A: Whether in the Mumbai piece or about the second-hand book shops, nostalgia is a strong emotion that I induced into my writing. The past is a safe place to fall back. It is there in your head and it gets rosier by the day and each person's past is their own. I draw upon the past a lot and it's inevitable for me as a writer.
 
Q: Any misadventures along the way?
 
Q: That should be the visit to Tolstoy's estate in 1983 which didn't happen. Those days, foreigners needed to get a permit to leave Moscow's city limits, which we didn't have.
 
Q: Can we expect a novel from London?
 
A: Right now, I don't have an idea about my new project. I have a busy job ahead in London.
 
(Preetha Nair can be reached at preetha.n@ians.in)
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image A career diplomat, Chitranganee Wagiswara, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, is the first woman to be the island nation’s envoy to India. As Foreign Secretary, she was Sri Lanka’s top diplomat for 18 months before being posted to New Delhi.
 
read-more
India has accused the United Nations Security Council and the international community of tending to ignore the terrorists ravaging Afghanistan and their backers while these forces “have stood up against one of the biggest collective military efforts in the world.”
 
read-more
Close Canada-India collaboration in health and wellness is a journey that commenced in 2015 in Toronto, when the first major health summit was held, and ended in March 2017 in New Delhi.
 
read-more
With weird concoction like "Beer Yoga" getting popular as the next big international fitness craze, the ancient art of inner blossoming is seemingly going topsy-turvy. And as yoga hogs the limelight on its third International Day, the loud call for saving the spirit of the ancient and modern practice can't be swept under
 
read-more
The death of deputy superintendent Mohammed Ayub Pandith at the hands of a lynch mob highlights the dangers to the police in Kashmir today, whether from gun-wielding militants or locals disgruntled with the Indian State.
 
read-more
Sher Bahadur Deuba has been elected Prime Minister of Nepal at an especially fragile time in the life of the 11-year-old Himalayan republic.
 
read-more
The rapid rise of Mohammed bin Salman, from one among many princes in the al-Saud royal family to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia within a span of two years, is an unprecedented development in the history of the Kingdom.
 
read-more
A United States fighter downed a Syrian military aircraft for the first time when it bombed a Syrian rebel faction backed by Washington.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: Reporting Pakistan; Author: Meena Menon; Publisher: Viking/Penguin Random House; Pages: 340; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

  A former Indian civil servant, who is currently a professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University, US spent long periods in distant villages and city slums of India. The result? A scholarly book that presen...

 
Column-image

  Title: The Exile; Author:  Cathy Scott-Clark & Adrian Levy; Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; Pages: 640; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Jim Corbett was a British-Indian hunter and tracker-turned-conservationist, author and naturalist; who started off as an officer in the British army and attained the rank of a colonel. Frequently called in to kill man-eating tigers or leopards,...

 
Column-image

Title: Bollywood Boom; Author: Roopa Swaminathan; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 399; Pages: 221

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive