Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

Many traditions associated with New Year’s Day are related to the idea that we get a renewal, or a fresh start on January 1. In images, the “old year” is represented as an old man and the new year as a baby.  (The old year is always a man—a sexist tradition!)  The idea of making New Year’s resolutions implies we have a special chance to transform ourselves once a year.  

Even the greeting “Happy New Year” suggests that one year may be fundamentally different from another.  The Chinese zodiac goes even further by identifying the year with an animal and its reputed attributes.
I’ve never been in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions. It may be because the amount of change in my life gives me plenty of fresh starts that have nothing to do with the New Year.

As a Foreign Service Officer I switch jobs, homes, cities and countries every two or three years.  It’s always stressful to end one assignment and begin another, but I love the life.  Every day is different and every day I learn something new.

So for me, personally, September 1, 2010, the day I arrived in Hyderabad, was a much more important new beginning that New Year’s Day, January 1, 2011.  I have to say, so far it’s been a very “Happy New Assignment” for me and Azim.

Even if the New Year is not the most significant milestone we pass, I hope we all have a happy, peaceful and fulfilling 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays—Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 Like India, the United States is a secular country that celebrates diversity.  Nevertheless, the period surrounding December 25 (Christmas) is an important time when Americans celebrate together.  Christmas has become a shorthand label for a whole range of traditions and practices, most of which bear no relation to Christianity or the celebration of the birth of Christ, which is the formal reason for celebration of the Christmas holiday: what we call a Christmas tree dates back to pre-Christian winter solstice celebrations in Europe; and candle lighting ceremonies and roving bands of singers have become associated with Christmas, but do not originate with it.

While there is some controversy in the United States about referring to this whole set of holiday traditions as making up a Christmas season, and there is even more concern about how the holiday has been transformed into a major marketing opportunity, most Americans cherish their holiday traditions.  It doesn’t really matter if they are celebrating Christmas, or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the New Year—American families gather together and share cheer during the holiday season.

At the Consulate, we Americans have been heartened by the way our Indian colleagues have enthusiastically joined us in carrying out the secular aspects of the American celebration of the holidays. We are having a desk-decorating contest, our talented colleagues went caroling around the office, and we’ll be visited by Santa Claus during our office holiday party.

I have vivid memories of the Christmases I’ve spent in many different countries since I joined the Foreign Service.  I’ll always remember the beautiful voice of a jazz singer in hot and humid Georgetown, Guyana, singing about a “winter wonderland.”  I cherish the Christmas Eve dinners I celebrated in Kinshasa, with fresh oysters among the delicacies flown in from Belgium for the occasion.  I look forward to adding memories of Christmas in India to this collection.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I’ve had a wonderful time since I arrived in Hyderabad to work as the U.S. Consul General.  Every day I meet interesting people from all walks of life—living proof of India’s diversity.  I’ve been welcomed warmly in so many special ways and always look forward to visiting sites in the Twin City region or outside to Vishakapatnam, Medchal or Devarapalli. 

 In the New Year I’m excited that I will have the opportunity to travel to Orissa, which is now part of the Consulate General in Hyderabad’s consular district.

I’ve decided that writing a blog will enable me to reach out to many more individuals.  It will also give me an opportunity to share my life as an American diplomat.  I’d like to tell you about my work and that of the Consulate.  Most of all, I’d like to strengthen the relationship between Americans and Indians by sharing ideas and seeking solutions together.

'A Diplomat in the Deccan' is my blog for you.  Feel free to respond if you have thoughts or ideas about the U.S.-India “Indispensible Relationship,”  or on any other topics.