A Creative Diplomat

Ruchi Ghanashyam Tuesday 27th July 2021 05:35 EDT
Last week, my husband and I had a special invitation. Anju Ranjan, our Consul General in Edinburgh until October 2019, and currently the Consul General in Johannesburg, South Africa, invited us to a reading of her books at the Sahitya Academi, India's National Academy of Letters.
This week, I was planning to write about the reported abduction and harassment of the daughter of Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan. That story reminded me of some of my own experiences while posted in Islamabad. I was also struck by the soaring temperatures in Canada and the US and thought it is important to talk about climate change.  But after attending the book reading and getting to know Anju better, I thought that her inspirational story deserves to be told first.
Anju Ranjan has already published three books in Hindi, adding to the rich fare available in Hindi literature. Two are collections of poetry and one is a collection of short stories. 
Anju’s first collection of poetry titled ‘Prem ke Vibhinn Rang’ (Different Shades of Love) expresses the different aspects of love that each one of us feels: the love for a beloved, especially when separated, love of a mother, and the love for one's land are some of the emotions covered in this collection. Most touching is her poem that describes how she understood the meaning of love while lovingly bringing up her autistic son, Adi. 
‘Visthapan aur Yaadein’ (Displacement and Memories) is the second poetry collection containing nostalgic memories of her simple childhood life in her village while sitting thousands of miles away in her place of posting. Even the sight of an aircraft flying in the air reminds her of how it is an instrument of her separation from her motherland.  
The collection of her short stories is titled ‘Voh Kaagaz ki Kashti’ (That Paper Boat). It is a “beautiful bouquet” of her memories from her childhood till she joined the Indian Foreign Service. It’s a profile of the life of a young girl from an interior village in Jharkhand to joining a premier Service of India.  
The book reading at Sahitya Academi was a special occasion.  It was the first event held at the premises of the Academi after the long interregnum caused by Covid. A small gathering of writers and editors and three former Ambassadors of India were amongst those present. Anju’s husband, Ranjan Kumar, is in the Indian Administrative Service and is currently the Commissioner of Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Despite his preoccupation with Covid management and preparations, Ranjan travelled from Lucknow to join this special occasion. 
Sahitya Academi is the central institution for literary dialogue, publication and promotion in India. It is the only institution in the country that undertakes literary activities in 24 Indian languages, including English. This valued institution has made a yeoman’s contribution to the promotion of Indian literature. Several renowned writers of India have been associated with it during its long history. Sahitya Akademi was formally inaugurated by the Government of India on 12 March 1954. The constitution of the Akademi was set forth in a Government of India Resolution and described it as ‘a national organisation to work actively for the development of Indian letters and to set high literary standards, to foster and co-ordinate literary activities in all the Indian languages and to promote through them all the cultural unity of the country’. The Academi has been set up by the Government of India and functions as an autonomous organisation. It was registered as a society way back on 7 January 1956, under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. A book reading at this prestigious institution is, thus, a recognition of a different aspect of Anju’s personality. 
The inspirational story of Anju Ranjan began in a small village in a humble farmer’s house where she grew up with her four sisters and a brother. Until she passed the Matric examination, no girl from her entire village had achieved this milestone. One of her stories describes the anxiety she felt when her Matric results came out. After a lot of missed heartbeats, it was discovered that Anju had topped her district in Matric. She moved to Hazaribagh for her college and finished her Masters in Chemistry with gold medals both at graduation and post-graduation. In her first attempt at civil services, she joined the Indian Audit & Accounts Service, joining the prestigious Indian Foreign Service in 2002 in her second attempt, becoming the first female success story from the state of  Jharkhand.  After the death of her father, Anju helped her siblings in their education and helped with their respective marriages. Following her lead, two of her sisters joined the civil services, while one is a Reader at a Government College and another is a doctor. Her brother is an engineer. The humble farmer’s six children are today contributing to making a better India in different fields! 
Despite her achievements, Anju remains rooted to her land and culture. She is not shy to talk about her humble origins. Rather, she affectionately recalls her innocent village life.  And why not? Anju has travelled an amazing distance. She has earned the right to be proud of what she has achieved. 
There are millions of Anjus in India. We may not know their stories but their contribution adds a unique flavour to the story of India.

comments powered by Disqus

to the free, weekly Asian Voice email newsletter