The ability to write well used to be a necessary qualification for high office. Whether prose or poetry, literature was important as a tool of communication.
It all makes sense. The more skilled you are in the medium of instruction, the better the instruction. The highest thinkers of the realms were always great writers. The founding fathers of the USA—such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams only to name two very good examples. They pursued letters and learning as a necessary part of their ability to create law and to govern effectively. Before them, we have learned of several of the ancient Greeks and Roman senators who were men of letters. And not to forget some famous Chinese emperors who wrote their edicts in verse.
The mandarins and panjandrums of yore morphed into the present day bureaucrat. Of particular relevance to us today, the diplomat.
My guest today is Abhay K. He is the Deputy Director General of the Indian Council For Cultural Relations. He was India’s Ambassador to Madagascar and is a career diplomat. He is what is called a poet-diplomat.
Poet-diplomats are poets who have also served their countries as diplomats. The best known poet-diplomats are perhaps Geoffrey Chaucer and Thomas Wyatt; the category also includes recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriela Mistral, Saint-John Perse, Miguel Asturias, Pablo Neruda, Czesław Miłosz and Octavio Paz.
Abhay K is one of a few contemporary poet-diplomats. In his words, “Diplomacy is generally conducted in short sentences which reveal as much as they hide. Poetry is no different".
Abhay is the author of several tomes of poetry and through those has discovered so many cultures of the world through their poetry. His latest book is titled The Book Of Bihari Literature. This book opened up a world that I had only suspected existed. With every page.
The biggest revelation I got from reading the book was how humane the text and adult the sentiment. It is the sort of maturity that does not characterise any but the best of Indian writing in English. And this book alone would stand testimony to the need for more translations of not only Indian literature but those of so many cultures.
Abhay’s understanding of the space and his skill in translating verse and curating these anthologies came rushing out the pages of the book. It is an understanding that—not surprisingly—goes beyond literary constructs, abstractions and devices, straight into the heart of the culture whether it is Brazil or Bihar.
And this whole definition of poet-diplomat started to make complete sense. I am eager to talk to him and so here he is, joining me from his hotel room in the Andamans, where he is currently on a work trip.
ABOUT ABHAY K
Abhay K. is a poet, diplomat, editor and translator. He is the author of a dozen poetry books including ‘Monsoon’ (Sahitya Akademi) and the editor The Book of Bihari Literature (HarperCollins India). He received the SAARC Literature Award 2013. His poem-song 'Earth Anthem' has been translated into over 150 languages.
Buy The Book Of Bihari Literature: https://amzn.to/3VidKqq
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