India’s Ambassador to Jordan, Shubhdarshini Tripathi, takes time off from her busy schedule to chat with us about her 22 years of life as a diplomat.
Little would one expect that this poised petite woman, dressed in a vibrant fuchsia and apple green sari, was originally intent on becoming a scientist. As life would have it, in 1994, Tripathi joined the Indian Foreign Service, one of the most competitive fields in India. “It was my destiny,” she says. “The course of life sometimes makes for unplanned decisions, ”explains” says whilst sitting behind her large dark wood desk at the Embassy.
“I never felt being a woman affected my career,” states the self-assured ambassador. India, she says, gives equal opportunities regardless of one’s sex. “Our foreign minister is a woman, we’ve had a female prime minister and we’ve had female ambassadors posted in extremely challenging missions,” she is proud to point out.
On the move
Before being appointed to Jordan, Tripathi was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Berlin. “It was a very big and active embassy,” recalls the ambassador with a twinkle in her dark, kohl-rimmed eyes. Diplomatic life saw Tripathi working in Paris, Germany, Malaysia and now Jordan.
“I live alone and thus see the positive, the best, the gratifying in everything,” she says. She has been married for 21 years to a military man. Most of the time, they are posted in different countries.
There is a lot of warmth in Jordan towards India, says the ambassador. She’s hoping to diversify economic and commercial relations between the two countries. One progamme close to her heart, and which she is working hard to expand, is Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
Under the ITEC programme, which started in 1964, India shares its experience by training nationals in the field of economic development, human resources, skills and technology with its 161 partner countries, including Jordan.
The role of women in diplomacy remains significantly diminished compared to that of men globally. What is obstructing women, then, from becoming ambassadors? “I think it’s the choices women make,” says Tripathi, sweeping back her black hair.
What about the influential men in this diplomat’s life? “My father has and still continues to influence me,” she says with a nostalgic smile. He raised both her brother and herself to be independent, kind and humble. Her husband, too, has been very supportive: “He’s an exceptional man; he’s resilient and has given me the freedom to pursue my career.” However, the ambassador does admit that it is very difficult to strike a balance and that it is not easy living alone. With total conviction, she says, “My husband has been able to charge my batteries living so far away, always asking about my work and health.”
Tripathi’s diplomatic life hasn’t meant she’s given up on other various passions and interests, she explains as we sit in her office sipping Indian Chai. Her favourite pastimes include painting, reading science textbooks and listening to music.
Even though she has a lot to do at the office, Tripathi also loves to entertain at home with home-cooked Indian meals. “I enjoy every moment of my life and entertaining is part of this gift that is life,” she says.
On a typical day, she starts her morning at five with a run and practising her piano, then it’s off to the office. After receptions, she heads back home to read about quantum physics and music.
India’s ambassador to Jordan concludes that diplomacy is not a mechanical job. “I read a lot to understand basic nuances and rely a lot on my emotional resilience.” She believes women are known for this resiliency and that it helps them embrace life.