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New German envoy connects with India's heart and culture


New Delhi: Walter J. Lindner, the newly-appointed German envoy to India, made heads turn last week, when he arrived at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in a red Ambassador car. Meeting 'sadhus' in Varanasi, touring Delhi's spice market Khari Baoli in a rickshaw, and visiting the Beatles Ashram -- the diplomat has announced his arrival in style.

Lindner was seen travelling Indian cities long before he presented his credentials to President Ram Nath Kovind in Hindi on May 21, much to the latter's delight. More recently, he tweeted a congratulatory video to Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi, whose party was re-elected to power in the 2019 general elections.

The reason for this Munich-born diplomat to learn Hindi, a language spoken widely in India, was to connect swiftly with people.

"I want to talk to people who are not much fluent in English, which is what happens when you go to the countryside," 62-year-old Lindner told IANS over phone from Kolkata, where he visited the German Consulate General. He will visit Chennai after the West Bengal capital.

The envoy, who sports long hair tied in a ponytail, quickly gained popularity on social media, when he live-tweeted his tour of Indian cities: Jaipur, Shekhawati, Dehradun, Rishikesh and Varanasi. He also shared a photograph of himself, when he had visited Varanasi in 1977, as a 21-year-old.

"Varanasi - thousands of years old, India's spiritual capital, a place so sacred that to die here is said to be a fast track to liberation from the endless cycle of rebirth and union with the divine. Early morning boat ride along the Ganges ghats," read one of his tweets from the holy city, coupled with beautiful images of its landscape.

What motivated this tour?

"I'm totally interested in the culture of India. You have 1.4 billion people living together peacefully. What's the secret? The world's biggest religions in the world are living and existing together. You have regions, languages, north-south, so many things. It fascinates me how it works," he explained.

Back from his cultural travel, Lindner chose a shiny red Ambassador over "some of the best and most beautiful cars on earth -- BMWs, Mercedes or Audies" that brag of their German origin.

Now operating out of his base in New Delhi, Lindner has already tried the lifeline of Delhi -- the Delhi Metro rail -- and has interesting remarks to make about India's different phases of history.

"Taking a subway (metro) from my embassy is 21st century, then you go to the spice market (Khari Baoli) which is running in the eighth century. It's in a time warp. There are different phases of history here," Lindner, who has released several music CDs, added.

Speaking on his quest to connect with people, the German diplomat said that along with his interest in "Indian art, history, architecture, music, dance", he cannot forget the country's people.

"When you are a diplomat, you spend most of your time in diplomatic circles. I am always trying to have direct contact with people, be it in factories or slums. This country is safe enough for me to do this."



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