Saturday, December 25, 2010


I wish merry X'mas to all of you.

It is a festive season. The air is filled with love and romance. In Europe people like 'white Christmas' i.e. it shall snow. This year it is white as it has snowed heavily all over Europe. The christian community in India is a sizable minority and the X'mas is celebrated with religious fervor by the faithfuls and with and frolic by others. It is almost a national holiday for as everybody in India irrespective of caste, colour and creed tend to join the fun and celebrate X'mas. It is a good thing for a democratic and secular society of India.

We are celebrating X'mas in Minsk. My schedule is full both with greeting cards, farewell lunches and dinners, important meetings in the run up to our final departure from Minsk by the end of the month. Yesterday, the 24 December, I paid my Good-Bye call on the Chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus. Apart from other things Chairman Rubinov got nostalgic and recalled that how they were used to like Indian films and added that in his school days he even played popular tunes like ' Awara Hoon, Asman Ka Tara Hoon.' Second Secretary Anil Kumar hosted a farewell dinner for us in the evening. It was a emotional sitting with my colleagues in the Embassy. I enjoy this kind of in-house talk occasionally setting aside protocol and guard.

Today, the X'mas day, in the evening the Span Group of Indian Dance of Elena Sipach who aconducts dance classes at the Embassy of India in Minsk, is celebrating X'mas at the Embassy and at the same time is bidding us farewell. I am sure the function will be a good fun filled with Indian dance music by the young Belarusian girls. We will have the farewell dinner at the Taj Restaurant, the only Indian restaurant in Minsk, hosted the Managing Director of Taj, Vishal Jain. He told me that it will a good evening punctuated with the fusion of belly dance and bollywood variety.

It was a brief resume of our X'mas day in Minsk and also the countdown for the fascinating journey in the Indian Foreign Service.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Countdown - the End of a Facinating Journey - 4

I continued towards the final stages of the journey. My diplomatic colleagues social friends are keeping us busy with their gracious hospitality in saying farewell to us. These lunches and dinners, on the one hand, is a routine affair in diplomatic functioning but it also tends to touch the emotional cords beyond the diplomatic protocol. I may write separately on these individual functions later.

We hosted my official 'Good-Bye' reception on December 9 at the India House in Minsk. It was attended by the cross sections of the society from the diplomatic, official, business circles in Minsk. The food, as usual, was totally Indian done at home by my wife Vidya and Chef Purushottam. The Indian diplomats generally tend to entertain guests at home with a view to provide Indian touch to our functioning and rightly so. It not only becomes cost effective but also homely and informal. I personally think that protocol rigidity brings in avoidable drabness in such functions.
It was an evening of excitement for us. A few minutes before the function, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergie Alinek, who was to represent the Belarusian Foreign Office at the function, spoke to me on phone and expressed regret that he would not be able to do so personally because of some other pressing work. I said that I would understand these diplomatic pitfalls and there was nothing to worry. His message was delivered by Director of Asia and Africa Division in the Foreign Office which inter alia said "I would like to express, Ambassadoe Chander, my sincere gratitude for your cordial attitude to Belarus and for the efforts to strengthen friendship, cooperation and mutual understandings between Belarusian and Indian people. I am confident that for many Belarusian, incliding those present in the Hall, you have become a real friend and an honourable representative of your great country." Ambassador of Serbia who is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Minsk spoke spiritedly which humbled me a great deal. He presented a beautiful painting as a farewell gift to me from the Diplomatic Corps with a Citation which, inter alia read ".It is a great pleasure for me to express the words of gratitude for the cooperation and understanding that contributed much to the strengthening of friendly relations among the Ambassadors and the Diplomatic Missions in the Republic if Belarus and the countries they represent." Many of my diplomatic colleagues made touching references to our interaction and working with each other. American Charge d' Affaires wrote in his message " It has been a pleasure-to know you as true professional and a warm human being." We would cherish the memories of Minsk.

The wines flowed. The Indian informal hospitality did the trick. I felt that everybody was at ease and enjoyed. That was the purpose.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Countdown - the End of a Facinating Journey - 3

I have already written two times on the subject. The final stages of the journey are approaching and completed. The process continues.

The first good-bye dinner was hosted by us at the India House in Minsk on December 8 which happened to be my birthday also. The members of the Embassy staff both local and India based were invited along with the members of the small Indian community in Minsk and also some prominent Belarusian friends like Indian dance teachers Elena Sipach, Ludmila and yoga teacher Natallia. It was a good fun. We purposely kept the party informal as an open house. The food was totally home made with the help of our usual help in the kitchen Purushottam of the Kebabji Restaurant and hot roti and lacha prantha from the Taj Restaurant.

Some of the guests like Naveen Kohli and Vishal Jain had given me the hint that they would like to dance and we prepared accordingly for the non-stop bhangra beats. Almost everybody, in turn, joined the bhangra. My wife Vidya, in spite of her knees, joined and ensured that everybody was at ease. The Bhangra was interrupted occasionally to give floor to the volunteers and impromptu singing talent among the guests led by R.P. Singh. They even sang ' कभी अलबिदा ना कहना ' We enjoyed the party as, we believe, was done by our guests. In fact, we tried our best to wind up, at each station of our posting, with a homely get-together of our fellow workers and friends around. We were all the more happy to see that some of the friends got pleasantly tipsy on that cold and snowy evening. We would miss them all.

I will continue writing on the countdown till be leave Minsk.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar - A Tribute

Today, December 6, is the death anniversary (Parinirvan) of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, father of the constitution of India, saviour of the down trodden, an intellectual of standing, a great social reformer and a fore bearer of revival of Buddhism in India. The whole country and the society at large is paying tributes to the memory of the great leader and worthy son of India, Dr. Ambedkar. I wish to join them with in doing so and pay homage to him.

My family beginning my grand-parents has been Ambedkarites, and rightly so, but with liberal views particularly with regard to political and spiritual philosophy of Dr. Ambedkar. I am no exception. I like and respect Ambedkar's mission and thought specially with regard to his great contribution to India's constitution on the bases of which India is the largest democracy in the world, his crusade for the upliftment of the dalits in India, his struggle for establishing a caste less society and above all for giving a sense of dignity to the poor and under-privileged segments of the society. I write this with a sense of gratitude.

I remember and recall that I used to participate with my father in various functions related to Ambedkar in my childhood in Jalandhar. It continued during my young and formative years as a student. I alongwith my fellow Bootanmandian Ram Lal Kainth participated in a paper reading declamation at the DAV College on the topic " The future of parliamentary democracy in India " sometime in 1967-68 and quoted extensively from Dr. Ambedkar's speech at the DAV College delivered in 1951-52 on the subject. My paper got due attention not only from the students in the audience but the members of the teaching faculty. I was happy and declared myself winner. We observed December 6 and organised a public meeting at Bootan Mandi in 1968-69. Prof. Krishan Lal Sachdev of the History faculty of the DAV College, who had shown keen interest in Dr. Ambedkar at the above mentioned paper reading contest was invited along with Sadhu Singh Hamdard the Chief Editor of the Punjabi daily Ajit as the lead speakers at the function. Prof Sachdev spoke, as usual at a high pitch, very highly of Ambedkar and narrated a few personal anecdotes too. Editor Hamdard, who was little reluctant to come initially, got spirited and spoke at length about the magnetic personality of Dr. Ambedkar and how he was personally impressed when he met Dr. Ambedkar in a sikh delegation to solicit him to become a Sikh. The Editorial write up in the Ajit on that day was revealing. Editor Hamdard in a signed editorial termed Ambedkar as " MUFKRE AJAM and handed over 200 copies of the paper for distribution at the function. I would like to make yet another mention which may be of interest. Keeping with the dictum of Dr. Ambedkar " Educate, Organise and Agitate ". We the dalit students of all the colleges of Jalandhar floated an association/federation of scheduled caste students some time in 1969. The newly created federation of students in co-operation with other organisations arranged a protest march and burnt the effigy of the Jagat Guru who had said something against the interest of dalits.. The march, before its termination at the district headquarter, was turned into public meeting. Though I always preferred to work as a back room boy in all these activities yet I was also invited to speak from the make shift podium and address the meeting which was also addressed by Master Gurbanta Singh and other politicians. The point I would like to make is that it instantly came to my mind and I suggested that the new university which was about to be set up either in Jalandhar or Amritsar shall be named after Dr. Ambedkar. It was a fresh and new idea from a novice like me but it electrified the audience. The demand got registered and later, I am happy to note that an important professional institute has been named after Dr. Ambedkar. It is a tribute to the memory of Dr. ambedkar from my unwritten diary. The great poet Gurdass Ram Alam wrote about Dr. Ambedkar's work and impact:

ਰੁਲਦੇ ਖੁਲਦੇ, ਬੇਘਰੇ ਲਾਬਾਰ੍ਸ਼ਾਂ ਨੂ, ਫੜ ਕੇ ਬੰਦਿਆਂ ਵਿਚ ਬੇਠਾ ਗਿਆ ਓਹ ;
ਬੁਜੇ ਹੋਏ ਅਸ਼ੁਤਾਂ ਦੇ ਦਿਲਾਂ ਅੰਦਰ, 'ਆਲਮ' ਜੋਤ ਅਹਸਾਸ ਜਗਾ ਗਿਆ ਓਹ !

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Countdown - the End of a Facinating Journey - 2

I wrote on November 18 on the process of binding up in Minsk before we move to India on retirement by the end of the year. The schedule is getting tight everyday with farewell calls, preparing for the Good-Bye Receptions we would host on December 8 and December 16. Some of these events turn out to be emotional and rightly so.

During our stay in Minsk and the course of our duty in the realm of public diplomacy, we gave demonstrations to the local media on Indian cooking at the India House which were well received. Vidya my wife is by now well recognised in the diplomatic and social circles in Minsk and also in the media that she is a good cook with simple recipes of north Indian food of Punjabi variety. The iTV, a leading online TV Channel contacted us for an informal cooking session which they would host. Keeping with the demands of our over crowed schedule in the processing of our final departure from Minsk, my wife was not too keen to undertake this long session of about 5 hours. But the iTV insisted and pleaded. We could not say no and the cooking demonstration for the TV was arranged on November 29.

The kitchen of the India House, our residence, was turned into a make shift studio by the technical staff. Later a good looking and well groomed middle aged beautiful lady came and we were told that she was Evlina Sakuro, a well known and famous Belarusian actress. She was specially engaged by the iTV to anchor the programme. I acted as the helper of Vidya in the cooking session and Olga, my Social Secretary, helped in interpretation into Russian. One by one, Vidya made chilli chicken, chanamasala, vegetable biryani and assorted vegetable pakoras. It was almost done with a professional touch. After the cooking, the table was laid with the cooked food and it was relished by the whole TV crew. The Producer Director and the Anchor were fully satisfied that the shooting was done without resorting to cuts and retakes. For us, it was a fulfilling experience to promote Indian food as part of diplomacy. The Anchor of the Programme Evlina, towards the end asked whether I knew the name of the programme. I said no. She said that they were considering to title programme as ' The Spicy Ambassador '. I said it sounded sexy. Let us see how would it turn out. We will not be in Minsk to see as the programme would be hosted in the iTV by the middle January 2011.