What Lies Inside Delhi's Diplomatic Enclaves?

Published: 14th April 2014 11:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th April 2014 11:52 AM   |  A+A-

Have the tree lined avenues stretching from Lutyens Delhi to Chanakyapuri ever caught your fancy? While queueing up for visas at the embassies in Delhi, have you felt  the urge to look beyond the exotic flags fluttering in the royal islands?

For the 'non-diplomatic' population of the country, the diplomatic avenues would be no less than palace like structures, which are unfortunately not on display for them or rest of the world  which can reveal as to what lies inside.

Similar thoughts hovered in Gladys Abankwa-Meier-Klodt's mind and she decided to let the world know about how the embassies in Delhi look like, what is where and why?

Gladys, wife of a senior German diplomat and the daughter of Ghanaian career diplomats, has chronicled an insider's view of this rarefied world in her book "Delhi's Diplomatic Domains".

Offering, a glimpse beyond the gates of over 40 of New Delhi's purpose built and heritage property foreign missions, the book reveals history of their establishment, historical relationships with India, as well as the architecture, interiors and landscaping of these diplomatic domains.

"Having spent long part of my life among missions, I was always fascinated about these buildings. But the idea of documenting them for everyone to know about the intricate details, strike me when I was in London," Glady's told PTI in an interview.

But by the time, the idea caught my fantasy, it was too late to be doing that in London. When I came to Delhi in 2011, I was fascinated to see the diplomatic area and knew that this could be the best country for this book, she said.

"What made it even more interesting is the fact that in London, the embassies were adapted to be the diplomatic domains, while in India they were created to be so," said Gladys who was here at the Taj Mahal Hotel for an exhibition of archival material and artifacts from different embassies.

Given that there are 153 diplomatic missions stationed in Delhi, a selection process was inevitable. The domains in Delhi are among the purpose built missions constructed from

the early 1950s on in the Diplomatic enclave at Chanakyapuri, as envisioned by then Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign affairs, Jawaharlal Nehru, the author said.

The anecdotal accounts supplemented with photographs by Lalit Verma, founder of Ayodhyan art gallery, the book offers a tell-all-tale about these diplomatic missions, right from the time when India sought to establish  diplomatic relations with capitals on all continents, inviting friendly nations to cement ties by establishing missions in New Delhi.

According to Gladys,  the most appealing fact about these embassies is how nations choose to project their cultural and political identities on the interiors and exteriors of their embassies.

"Every embassy has dealt with the dilemma about whether  should it incorporate design influences of the host nation or strictly reiterate its own cultural identity? Many nations have chosen to do a bit of both," she said.

As an insider, I had fairly easy access to most structures and their innards and was able to study them at close quarters, enabling the book to offer a rare look inside the

well-guarded, high-walled complexes that house New Delhi's diplomatic community, she said.

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