I feel that you’re a representative of the culture from which you come and, and you, you’re a bridge between the culture of the host country and the culture of your original in this case, the United States
But the point being, I had to break through that understanding of, learn how to balance the poet’s life and the diplomat’s life. And I had to learn from experience that you could do both, you know, for a while, I thought I had to give up one for the other and I did for about three years. And then, and then I, my son how to make extra money in Nevada – about to be born – uh, the night before his birth, I wrote a poem about that, about that, about this, and then that unleashed a whole, the poetry that had been stucking up, you know, for, for years.
But, but it’s a different relationship
You know, I, I felt there was so many stories that I had to tell and that I was learning about as well in my new work as a diplomat that I wanted to, to share with the world. So, and my mean, preferred means of sharing was the poem as opposed to a novel or, or a short story or, or, or a play.
Um, you know, so, um, life is about learning, uh, new experiences and learning new things and also, uh, shedding old skin and giving up certain things. I mean, when I was in New York, I was a, a great fan of the theater and I would go and write reviews of plays. When I started to go abroad that I, I had, I sort of gave that up, you know. Yes, there is theater in, in Argentina, especially, and there’s theater in Mexico, and so on. Um, and so, um, and when you learn a language, it changes the way you look at your own original language as well. And I think that’s one of the great, uh, benefits of, of working as a diplomat. It’s just, it’s the learning of languages and how those languages have improved me, my conscious conscience and consciousness, you know? I’ve become a broader, more global person as a result of the language learning and the engaging with different cultures. So it’s a, it’s a privileged position to be a diplomat. It really is. I mean, you, you have this, um, opportunity not only to represent your country and your people.
When I say represent, I mean, I’m not talking only about the, the policy of the government. So, uh, whatever your job in the embassy, you, you promote that, that conversation, that traffic across that bridge, that cultural bridge. And so, um, and so, yeah, I mean, I don’t, I don’t, and there were moments in my career when I regretted something because I couldn’t, I, you know, I remember when I was writing for the Hindu newspaper in India as, and I was the PAO in Chennai, and I was promoting American culture in a way writing about American. I wrote a piece about ple, or about [inaudible ] and then Agha Shahid Ali, who were poets of Indian origin, who were writing and working in the States.
But, um, but then when I, when I left India and I, and the newspaper asked me to write a regular column for them, and then I got into some hot water (laughs) internally. Because I was told, ‘you know, people know you as diplomat, they know you as coming from Sri Lanka. I mean, it, it’s not helpful for us, for you to be, to be writing these pieces.’ So I had a choice to make, I could either challenge it internally and say, well, look, I, I’m not, I’m not questioning government of our, our foreign policy opinion or anything, or I can let it go. And I ended up deciding to let it go, you know, let that offer go. And just because I was, I wanted to respect, uh, keep my career flourishing and keep moving. But so you do, you do give up things and you gain things.