Rain Rising: A diplomat poet's reflections
By Esther Williams
"Poetry is my way of coming up for oxygen. It lifts me up," said Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Menon Rao at the launch of her book Rain Rising last week. The collection of poems, she said was a medley of emotions and recollections that were an interpretation of life and challenges.

Reviewing the book, Prof. D.C.R. Goonetilleke said her poems were multi-dimensional in what they make the readers see, and make her accomplishments as a person complete. Of diverse nature, the poems are sectioned into three parts -- Remembrance, Reflection and Exploration.

Dr. Goonetilleke said that while the poems listed under remembrance had a visual impact that made potent reading, the section under reflections was moving, revealing the poet's empathy and compassion. Under exploration is a series of impressions and sketches from personal experiences set against the background of the countries Ms. Rao wrote from, in her line of duty as a senior diplomat.

Reciting several poems, Ms. Rao said the poems were simply an expression of herself - her thanks to life, that tell of her happiness and grief. She said she was happy that the book was being launched in Sri Lanka, a land so similar to her hometown Kerala.

Having witnessed the immense human suffering caused by the recent tsunami, she said she hoped it would prompt her to give written impression of what she had felt.

As for her being a diplomat poet, Ms. Rao said creativity was not unknown among diplomats, citing some diplomats who had dabbled in creative writing. "Although we are wedded to our jobs, the office we hold cannot stifle our life away with our existence."

The High Commissioner said she spoke as an Indian and as a South Asian as there was a common thread that linked all South Asians. "There is a fusion of so many identities in us. Therefore, I hope that the audience in Sri Lanka will relate to the poems and discover meaning in them," she said.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirigamar, who was the chief guest, called Ms. Rao a poet in her own right. While commending her for the great impression she had made in Sri Lanka and her poetry, he said she required skill to combine the role of diplomat and poet. A poet, he said dealt with feelings unlike a politician who would not feel or respond to feelings, although both perfected the use of language.

Nirupama Menon Rao was born in Kerala and raised in army cantonments away from her native state. She has been a career diplomat since the age of 22 and has served in Austria, Sri Lanka, the United States, Peru and Russia. She is the first woman to serve as spokesperson of the Indian Foreign Office. A Fellow of Harvard University, her interests include Sinology, the study of frontiers, poetry and classical music.

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