“Guts is grace under pressure”
Nirupama Menon Rao is a retired Indian diplomat, foreign secretary, and ambassador. She was India’s first woman spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi. She was also the first woman high commissioner from India to Sri Lanka, the first Indian woman ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and served as India’s Foreign Secretary from 2009-2011 after which he was appointed India’s ambassador to the United States where she served for a term of two years from 2001-2013. In July 2009, she became the second woman after Chokila Iyer to hold the post of Indian Foreign Service. In 1973, she was the second UPSC Civil Service Topper and the first woman to get the first rank. On completion of her four decades-long active diplomatic services, Ambassador Rao was appointed as Meera and Vikram Gandhi Fellow at the India Initiative at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island where she continued to pursue her academic interest and led a seminar course on ‘India in the world’ which covered key areas of India’s foreign policy and global interaction. She is currently a Global Fellow of the Wilson Center. In November 2014, the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, New Delhi announced the conferment of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship to Rao to enable her to work on the completion of her book project on India-China relationship, entitled: “The Politics of History: India and China, 1949 to 1962”. She was conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris causa) by the Pondicherry University. She is also a receiver of the Vanitha Ratna Award of the Government of Kerala (2016), the “Citizen Extraordinaire” Award of the Rotary International, Bangalore (2018) and the Kalinga Karubaki Literary Award (Kalinga Literary Festival, Odisha, 2018).and in 2012, she was named to the Global List of the 100 Most Influential Women on Twitter by foreignpolicy.com.
Post-retirement, Ambassador Rao has been active on the lecture circuit in several universities and institutions of higher learning. In December 2017 at the age of 67, she also launched her first commercial album named: “Peace is my dream” produced by the Peninsula studios in New Delhi and released by Universal Music Group. She has sung all the 14 tracks in the album and has written two of them. The two original songs written by Rao are Peace is My Dream and We’ll Walk Free. She has published a book of poetry titled ‘Rain Raising’. A Malayalam translation of her book “Rain Rising” was released by Calicut University. Her poems have been translated into Chinese and Russian language too. Legends like her prove that age is just another number when it comes to pursuing your passion and each one should make time to do what they love.