Second Thoughts: Navtej Sarna on Being a Diplomat and a Writer
By Lynn Grasberg, Official ZEE JLF@Boulder Blogger
“I keep my diplomat work separate from my writing because I don’t want to get in trouble with anybody.”
Navtej Sarna is the Indian ambassador to the U.S. He credits diplomacy for making his writing career rich and varied. “Being a diplomat is great fun and it has actually fed my books. I don’t think I would have written the books if I had not been a diplomat who travelled, met all sorts of people, and learned their stories.” When asked how he finds the time to write, Sarna replied, “You squeeze out the time from the 24 hours available. It can’t cut into your day job, so inevitably it comes out of family time, TV time or sleep time.”
Sarna’s most recent book is Second Thoughts, a collection of pieces written for his monthly column in the Hindu Newspaper between 2006 and 2015.
Sarna found his subjects on diplomatic trips where he kept an eye out for the literary aspect of any country he visited. For example, “When I went to Cuba, I took a car and went to the Hemingway estate. I found all sorts of things. In Hemingway’s background, there are daily meticulous scribbling of his weight. You wouldn’t know this from his picture, but he was tracking his weight.”
Saran wears a turban, a symbol of his identity as a Sikh. He says, “The Sikh religion is just 500 years old. But it is replete with dramatic events in this period – a lot of the martial aspect, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of battles – a huge area waiting to be written about.
“There is a famous saying, because my people intersected a lot with the British: Until the lions tell their own story, the hunters win. So we Sikh’s have to tell our own story.”
Photo Credit – Abhijit Sur