The walls of my late grandmother’s room carried a framed set of photographs that revived for her a cherished memory. The pictures recalled a promising moment when her dear nephew Alan who qualified for the Indian Foreign Service in 1959 sailed to his maiden posting in Tokyo, amidst affectionate and admiring family members bidding him goodbye on the ship’s deck.
That was just the beginning of the illustrious diplomatic career of P. A..Nazareth which continued in Rangoon, Lima and London before his first Ambassadorial appointment in 1979 as High Commissioner/Ambassador of India to Ghana, Liberia, Upper Volta and Togo. Subsequently he was Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi, in which capacity he had occasion for constant connection with the icons of India’s creative and performing arts. He served stints in the U.S. as Consul General in Chicago and New York. His trans- continental peregrinations found him ably serve as Ambassador to Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador & Belize.
Retiring in 1994, he has redefined himself as an envoy for peace, and occupies a prominent public stature in reviving the Gandhian legacy for contemporary relevance. His writings and scholarship in the field have found him grace the podium at the East West Centre and University of Hawaii at Honolulu, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Yale, Columbia and many other leading universities and institutions in India and abroad.
The organizational aspect of this revival reflects in the respected Sarvodaya International Trust, of which he is founder and managing trustee to internationally promote Gandhian values. With its ten chapters in India and a distinguished global support base, it is active in initiatives that seek to promote peace and cleanse public life of corruption and conflict . He also runs “ The Seema Nazareth Endowment for the Girl Child” in memory of his beautiful and talented young daughter who suffered an early demise. Her writings on varied financial subjects comprise an impressive commemorative volume.
The first edition of his widely acclaimed book ‘Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership’ was released in New Delhi by the former Prime Minister of India Dr. I.K.Gujral and at the UN in New York by then Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor.
In 2007 he enjoyed the exceptional acknowledgement of the U Thant Peace Award by the Sri Chinmoy Meditation Group at the United Nations, for his ‘Life Time of Dedication and World Service by promoting the Gandhian Values of Truth, Non Violence, Communal Harmony and Humanitarian Service’. This puts him in an elite league of world leaders, previous recipients being Pope John Paul II, The Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“ Ambassador Nazareth” as he is popularly known is very well liked for his genial nature.His suave and sociable persona, combined with a keen intellect underlies his success as a diplomat and public figure. He is a stimulating conversationalist with a rich store of anecdotes from his eventful postings and his intimate encounters with interesting and distinguished people. For example, he and the other IFS probationers meeting Prime Minister Nehru for the first time were uniquely privy to information of the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet into India. He was witness to coups and attendant violence in Ghana and Liberia. His diplomatic dealings with Mubarak happened at the height of the now disgraced dictator’s arrogant might. Heading ICCR, he undertook the pioneering initiatives of bringing the New York Philharmonic, Paris Opera and Bolshoi Ballet to India. Zubin Mehta is a personal friend; the great MF Husain regarded him with affection and was pleased to spontaneously make gifts of his work.
I am very proud and grateful that the launch of my novel ” Blossom Showers” happened from the hands of this significant writer and prominent public figure. His perceptions on the occasion ring in my memory as the most erudite and eloquent summations of my work. In avuncular spirit perhaps, but I was overwhelmed to the point of tears when he said my novel evoked the spirit of Leo Tolstoy in its literary quality, the depth of its themes, historic sweep and philosophical insights.
His own book GOL has been commended by President Barack Obama, former Phillipines President Corazon Aquino, iconic former Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Princess Irene of Greece, Rajmohan Gandhi and film-maker Shyam Benegal among an eminent assemblage. Presently GOL is in its third edition in English, having enjoyed its recent release at the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar. It has also been translated into various Indian and foreign languages, (the latest being Spanish)- a testament to its sage scholarship and robust relevance.
I wish him and GOL ever greater reach and impact.