Click to end digital divide. Day Ten: They say I’ve been lucky. My 10 days at the United Nations yielded five statements to various Committees of the General Assembly, one address to the full General Assembly and a stint at the Security Council. Even though MPs from India visit the UN Headquarters every year, few are privileged with such a rich experience. Maybe I was fortunate there were only two of us for most of the period I was at the UN.
Catching up with AB! Day Nine: The day began with a statement to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly — the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee — on the subject of child rights. The focus of my speech was to urge that nurturing the demographic dividend — both India’s and the world’s — be seen not merely as a social obligation but also an economic need.
Flavour of Puja-time Bengal Day Eight: “Nomoshkar. Aaj Durga Puja, Banglar priyo utsav. Ei shubho dine aapnader shokolke janai abhinandan ar subhechha… (Nomoshkar. Today is Durga Puja, Bengal’s most cherished festival. On this auspicious day, I’d like to wish all of you the very best…”) As I finished the opening sentence, I could see delegates reach out for their earphones and the instant translation service. They relaxed as I switched to English. I relaxed too. The initial nervousness was gone. My address to the General Assembly had begun.
Quiet weekend before big day Day Seven: Weekends at the United Nations seem to follow a pattern, especially for diplomats and delegates visiting for a short period. They are spent taking the train to Washington, DC, for consultation with fellow diplomats there or for one or the other social cum professional engagement. More often than not the visit to the General Assembly is combined with a round of meetings at the State Department, with the individual country’s (in my case India’s) embassy in the American capital, and confabulations with the several think-tanks in the Beltway, as Washington’s inner ring is called.
One week done at the UN… one more to go. Day Six: This morning I walked into the Kuwaiti Permanent Mission to the United Nations by mistake. It had the same ornate door as the Indian Mission and was in the same neighbourhood. For a stranger, it was easy to get confused. I wonder who copied whom! It’s a brisk, seven-minute walk from the Indian Mission to the UN Headquarters. About half the 193 permanent missions are situated within walking distance of the UN building. Diplomats from the 100 other countries have to drive down and negotiate the impossible New York traffic. In fact, UN diplomats have a reputation for parking illegally in the city and not paying fines, citing diplomatic immunity.
Yearning for Puja in a heady ‘UNiverse’ Day Five: When asking a question in a quiz, I like to be on top of the subject. I make it a point to get a bit of background and digest peripheral information. The reason is simple enough — in case of an argument or an interjection, I can defend the answer I am providing. There is no point being an actor who reads out somebody else’s words. If you’re found out, you could be severely embarrassed. In politics and public life too I try and write my own speeches, with research material I may have found or which has been made available to me for study. r
Kid in a candy store at ‘high table’ of planet Day Four: However old we become, there is still inside us that child wanting to reach to that candy behind the store window. As I sat there at the horseshoe-shaped Security Council table, I was transfixed by the voting button in front of me, itching to touch it, feel it, press it. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the issue didn’t come down to voting!
Ma Mati Manush reaches UN Day Three: The Indian Permanent Mission to the United Nations is located at 235 East, 43rd Street, New York. It’s not far from the East River, which flows past the UN Headquarters. The Permanent Mission is housed in a building redolent of Indian associations, and designed by the well-known architect Charles Correa. As you enter the reception area, a striking and massive painting, 20 feet high, captures your gaze. Painted by M.F. Hussain in 1993, it depicts the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Back to books at parliament of nations. We’re staying at the Millennium Plaza Hotel, a short walk from the United Nations Organisation Headquarters, and known universally it would appear as “the UN Hotel”. Coming to this part of town has been exciting and different. I’ve visited New York several times but have never come to the UN building or its neighbourhood. It’s almost like you’re entering another zone. This is an uber cosmopolitan precinct even within the world’s most cosmopolitan city. It even has its own postage stamps! The UN complex is an imposing one, and one of its architects incidentally was Le Corbusier, the French urban planner who later gave us Chandigarh and Gandhinagar.
A boy from Calcutta bats for India! Day One: This past fortnight's been hectic. It began with an emphatic rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and moved on to quiz shows in Singapore and Doha. Then, I bought my ticket to New York for the United Nations General Assembly session. I'm one of two parliamentary representatives from India who will be at the UN beginning on Monday. My colleague will be Ananth Kumar of the BJP. We will succeed L.K. Advani (BJP) and Dharmendra Yadav (Samajwadi Party).