BENGALURU: Nirupama Menon Rao has been at the forefront when it comes to serving the country with passion and commitment. A diplomatic career saw her become India’s Foreign Secretary, being only the second women to do so. Rao, who is currently gearing up for her upcoming performance with The South Asian Symphony Orchestra in the city, reflects on her life after retiring from the Indian foreign service in 2011, venturing into teaching in the US and writing extensively. She tells CE: “I pursued music to not just sing but to also to use it as a tool to bring people together.”
Rao emphasises her inclination towards art, which drew her towards world history and a love for music across all genres. In 2018, The South Asian Symphony Foundation, a non-profit trust was established in the city with Rao being one among the founders along with her husband Sudhakar Rao.
With an aim to promote peace in South Asia, the trust looks at music to communicate issues across political borders and nationalities with The South Asian Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra transcends language, culture, religion and nationality, thereby becoming a doorway between worlds and cultures. “The idea was to focus on bringing Indian musicians and artistes closer to their neighbours in the region. If we use the medium of the orchestra, where each one has a role to play, it would be a good way to spread harmony and approach the challenges we face in South Asia,” she added. Rao also mentions that the orchestra plans to play a show in January 2020 at the Partition Museum in Amritsar.
When asked about the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which has received mixed views since its implementation, Rao says, “Our existence as a nation is for inclusion and it is true that there have been inflows of people in certain parts of the country from other countries. Any government in the world would have to regulate such inflows and has to look towards ensuring stability.” Calling it a difficult task for the Indian government to face, she continues, “I can’t point out what’s good or bad but ultimately, we should respect the principle of diversity.”
During her diplomatic tenure, Rao donned many roles, including high commissioner of India to Sri Lanka and Ambassador of India to the United States. Apart from this, she also has to her credit a book of poems titled Rain Rising, which was released in 2004. That, however, won’t be the last of written word from her side since Rao is now writing a book titled Tell It On The Mountain: India and China 1949 - 1962.
“It narrates the history of diplomatic relations between India and China from 1949 - 1962. It’s something which needs to be written as those years in our relationship with China continue to influence our approaches today as well,” she says.
The South Asian Symphony Orchestra will perform at the JN Tata Auditorium, Indian Institute of Science, Malleswaram on October 5, 6.30 pm.