August 2003




August  2003 



 Ancient musical
 instruments of India

 Robert Blackwill &
 What India means to 


 Karun Chandok - the 
 'Formula' of wins



 Government 2 citizen
 service delivery
 models - case studies
 from India


 Snehal Bhatt 
 - saviour of cobras

 Book Reviews - India

 Bunker - 13

 Book Reviews 
 - Pakistan

 Where they dream in


 Emigre Journeys


 Letter from Pakistan


 New research on
 eggs, meat & ghee


 Tarun Thakral & his
 vintage garage

 Real Issues

 Hindutva is not 

 Coffee Break

 Coke's toxic fertiliser 
 in Kerala

 Oldest planet sighted

 Bobby Jindal - the 1st
 Governor in USA?



 the craft shop

 Lehngas - a limited collection

 the print gallery


 Silk Road on Wheels

 The Road to Freedom

Enduring Spirit

 Parsis-Zoroastrians of

The Moonlight Garden

Contemporary Art in











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"What India Means To Me"


Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill

(US Ambassador to India)
A Luncheon Speech

July 29, 2003
New Delhi, India


Learning about the seven cities. Presenting my credentials to President Narayanan in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, hearing my name read out by an official with the deepest voice on the planet. I so wished that my mother, Roma from South Dakota, may her soul rest in peace, could have been there to see her boy, Bobby Dean, on that splendid occasion. I was astonished to find myself there. She would not have been surprised.

Visiting Humayun's tomb with US Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill who commented that when it was erected, those living on my continent had built no structure higher than twenty feet. So you see, we Americans fell behind you Indians very early on in the architectural sweepstakes. It seems doubtful that we will ever catch up.

Back to traveling in India. Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal - the heat, the dust, and the glacial source of the Ganga. Like so much of India, alpha and omega provide conflicting context. The vale of Kashmir, yearning to be again a normal place. Dal Lake, which Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith once told me, was as close to heaven as one could get on this earth. Ladakh's high plateau with the Buddhist prayer flags flapping in the mountain wind.

Sugar in strong tea, a taste that I acquired in India only in the last two months. I will now treasure that for the rest of my life. Someday, I am going to drive from Manali to Leh, listening to jazz all the way. Want to come along? Has this possibility never entered your mind? Not yet. Think about it.

I recall speaking to jawans on the Siachen. Those men from all over India give new meaning to the word tough. Listening enraptured to a male singer accompanied by a harmonium in the Golden Temple. Gyrating frenetically in a borrowed red turban with a professional local dance group outside on a lawn on a balmy evening in Chandigarh. My Ambassadorial reputation may have survived my hip-hop performance, but barely.

However, here is a real curiosity. After my extremely energetic and, I thought, dazzling audition that night, I received no offer to join that dance team. I can only conclude that they could not find my address in India. I could be wrong, but my guess is that they are still trying to locate the mysterious long legged whirling dervish of that evening. As I speak with you today, perhaps they will see me on television and be in touch. Have no doubt. I am always ready to dance, fast or slow. It liberates me. How about you?

As you can hear, I could go on along these lines for several months. But don't you worry. I have arranged meals and bedding for all assembled here so that you will be comfortable as I continue my extended tour. As has been said, the world is divided into two parts - those who have seen the Taj Mahal, and those who have not. I am proud to be in the first, still too exclusive group. The Shatabdi Express transported me there and back in great comfort. A wonderful train.

All of Rajasthan entrances me. The noble Rajput legacy. Jaipur. Udaipur. Jodhpur. And perhaps my favorite, the medieval walled city of Jaisalmer, land of the Bhatti princes, born of the moon. Parapets into the sky. On some nights, there must be stars nowhere else above the planet because they all seem to be over Jaisalmer. I am surprised some city in northern Europe has not sued Jaisalmer for stealing all the stars. Be sure and take your sunglasses along when you go there -- to deal with the starry nights.

Standing in Jaisalmer, close your eyes for a moment and see the camel caravans coming through this desert town a thousand years ago, which I now realize by India's civilizational standards is only yesterday - a fellow on the street might have said to me, "yes, they came through Jaisalmer, just a little while ago."

The Jain Dilwara Temples at Mount Abu. Exquisite wonders of the world. As has been so often the case during my stay in India, I had only two hours to look. I needed more than two lifetimes there and elsewhere in this uncommon land.

Let me go on following the map and the train tracks. Inspired by the endurance and courage of the Gujaratis as they recover from the earthquake. Pulsating Mumbai. Speaking with its effervescent business community is for me like breathing pure oxygen. I cannot get enough of it.

Sitting around in a small circle on wooden chairs, trading opinions with a half a dozen distinguished Mumbai painters for an hour about abstract expressionism in New York in the 1940's and 50's (Pollock, Kline and the rest). What a special treat. Exploring the Ajanta and Ellora caves and their wall paintings of people who felt all of the emotions that we currently carry around with us, including especially the elements of abiding love.

Andhra Pradesh with its path-breaking e-governance, and food hotter than hot. Don't let anybody tell you differently; those Andhra peppers are without doubt weapons of mass destruction.

Ancient Christianity in Kerala; world class IT in Bangalore; the game park near Mysore where I first heard of the Columbia tragedy and stayed up all night writing my poem for Kalpana; the blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture in Chennai; the elephant carvings at Mamallapuram; the exquisite culture of Kolkata; the flowers and forests of Sikkim and the border at Nathula with no shortness of breath; the Northeast, Kaziranga and the Brahmaputra.

What a country this is. And I have hardly experienced any of it. In these places, my omnipresent security detail from the Indian police - my gunmen as a good friend called them -- who accompanied me everywhere in India, who kept me safe, and who were ready to give their lives to protect me.

Oh, this India that I have come to know ever so slightly.

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