BENGALURU: Eight-year-old Samanyu couldn’t contain his excitement when his father’s new assignment came up — it would, after all, take the young wildlife enthusiast closer to the Amazon jungle. His dad, for that matter, is happy about his posting as the new High Commissioner of India to Guyana, St Kitts & Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, for different reasons.
Dr KJ Srinivasa, 41, is one of the youngest Indian ambassadors to any country, and says he is proud to represent the nation in the Caribbean. “We want to develop India’s relationship with that region. It is home to a big population of the Indians, and there is also a lot of scope on the economic front. The strategic location of the Caribbean for trade is assuming importance,” says the diplomat, who hails from Chitradurga. He is a graduate from Government Medical College, Mysuru.
“Guyana is going to start commercial production of oil in 2020. That will be one of the potential areas of cooperation,” he adds, further talking about the desire to upgrade India’s relationship with Caricom, the multinational organisation in the Caribbean.
Srinivasa, who was earlier posted as the Consul General of India in Johannesburg, is happy that he is once again getting to work in a region with a sizeable presence of the Indian-origin community. “Diaspora population makes a difference,” he says, recalling his time in San Francisco before he moved to South Africa. “In all these places with a large NRI community, I took initiatives to work closely with them. They were also very reciprocal. For instance, the Tamil Federation in South Africa — 40 per cent of Indian diaspora there is of Tamil origin — was happy to be involved in the events we organised.”
Srinivasa credits the rejuvenation of the ties of the Indian-origin community to the country’s economic growth, as well as the new educational and medical opportunities evolving in India. E-visa has also broken barriers, he points out. “Indian art and heritage is also pulling people back towards India. And that’s what we want — to make them feel linked with their motherland,” he says.
The IFS officer of the 2002 batch has also been secretly excited with the new posting for another reason. “It’s yet another cricket-playing region,” he laughs, hoping that his two sons — the older one, Athrav, is 14 —will finally warm up to the sport.
“Both of them hate cricket because we lived in non-cricket playing countries, until we moved to South Africa. So they picked up some baseball,” he says. As someone who played the sport for his college, Srinivasa is thrilled to go to the “land of Clive Llyod”, and rues the chances his sons missed in South Africa. “In Johannesburg, there was an academy 100-m from my house where cricketers like Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs trained. And my kids refused to go there. I was like, ‘At least you could have done so for your father’,” he chuckles.
“I really enjoyed being in Africa,” he says, with the conversation veering towards ostrich rides. “It is exciting, although you feel a bit tense,” he reveals. “But once it starts running, it starts running. You cannot get down,” he breaks out into laughter.
Srinivasa, the son of an orthopaedic surgeon, also remains a doctor at heart. “Just three days before I left South Africa, I rushed a colleague’s wife to the hospital, and it was found that she had suffered a massive heart attack. I am often called in such situations, and always carry a lot of medicines with me,” he says, brushing off criticisms about doctors pursuing civil services as unfounded. “MBBS is like any other graduation,” he says, adding that he opted for the foreign service since he wanted to represent the country abroad.
All the world-hopping over the last 17 years notwithstanding, Srinivasa has made sure he remains connected to his roots. He spent three days at Chitradurga before he left for Georgetown earlier this month. “My alma mater — Chinmuladri National High School in Chitradurga; and Government Science College, Chitradurga, from where I did PU — felicitated me,” says Srinivasa, who is married to Ashwini, a computer engineer-turned-homemaker, who happens to be the daughter of four-time MP from Davangere, GM Siddeshwara, an old relation of the family.
BEHIND THE LENS
Srinivasa had a memorable time in Africa as it gave him ample opportunities to pursue another passion — wildlife photography. “I love travelling, and have a deep interest in the history and culture of wherever I go,” he says, talking about how even though he is a medical doctor, his subject in the UPSC entrance exam was history. He has now got a vast collection of photographs, which he hopes to exhibit when he finds time.