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For this envoy, music strikes the right chord in diplomacy

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New Delhi, Aug 11, 2019-

Music is part of his very soul, and half-an-hour of playing the piano before breakfast every morning helps German Ambassador Walter J. Lindner get the perspective he needs in his hectic diplomatic life.

Not just music, the German envoy to India also feels the need to meet and communicate with people in person.

During his many sojourns across the country, even to the local fruit and flower mandi, Lindner makes it a point to converse with the locals, the phoolwala, sadhus, the temple priest, local shopkeepers and passengers on the metro in broken Hindi.

The envoy, who studied classical European music, and has been a music conductor and composer, pleasantly surprised Delhiites last month when he played the flute in accompaniment with Grammy awardee composer Ricky Kej at the opening ceremony of the first Gandhi-Mandela Peace Initiative in the national capital.

“I’m a musician since the past 45 years. So I play every day. I play for myself. And you would see me every morning, before breakfast, for half-an-hour on the piano, playing something different,” Lindner told in a chat at his diplomatic residence here, where the piano occupies a prominent place in the living room.

Does it help with diplomacy?

“It helps me survive. without music, I would not have survived my diplomatic job. It gives me a kind of balance of my soul.

“Otherwise, the stress and the responsibilities, and the day-to-day work can drag you down. It lets you have a distance between you, your inner self and your job. You have to wind down. Some do it through meditation, some through music. Music is my meditation,” said Lindner.

The envoy, who was State Secretary, or Foreign Secretary, in Germany before being given the important assignment of India, wants to get “much deeper” into Indian classical music before he joins some master to perform on stage.

“I am a perfectionist, and I’m a professional. So if I perform with an Indian musician, I want to be sure this is good music. From my side, before I play with masters of India, I have to get much deeper into Indian music. But I’m already playing with musicians, doing a kind of fusion between Indian and European music,” he said, citing the example of Rikki Kej. “We will have more concerts together.”

“Fusion music is easier for me, as it is my kind of music, half Indian,” said Lindner, adding that his friend Rakesh Chaurasia, well-known flautist and nephew of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, brought two flutes for him.

Walter J Lindner Red CarIn his effort to connect with the people, the envoy has taken solo metro rides in Delhi and Nagpur, and chatted with the passengers, many of whom have taken selfies with him.

Linder visits markets across Delhi and other places, and interacts with and photographs the locals there. He has been to Old Delhi by himself, and familiarised himself with the sights that he had seen when he was in India over 40 years ago.

“My approach, especially in India, is that I want to talk to the people. The treasure of a country is its people, especially in India because you have such a variety of different people, you have six big word religions, 300 plus languages -– you have the east, north, south, west, you have such a coexistence of different cultures.

“You have so many life realities in the country; and everything is true, and the contrary is also true. So it’s a country which you don’t get into your veins in the first moment. You need to be here for quite a while. And to invest into the people, you have to talk to the rickshaw driver, and to the metro worker, and the electronic guy, and my colleagues here, and to the sadhu.

“I don’t know how others (other diplomats) do it. Probably they read a book and say ‘this is India’; but I have to have first-hand impression. I need this human interchange,” Lindner said.

Though his anchor of communication is English, it’s always good to learn the language of the country, he said. “I’m learning Hindi, if I’m alone I have to speak (Hindi). In Jodhpur, I tried to speak in Hindi.”

The ambassador, whose red Ambassador car, had been a huge hit in the capital and on social media, said he is greeted by waving and smiling people whenever they spot his car on the streets.

When he drove his bright red Ambi to the Parliament last month to meet a minister, the MPs swarmed around his car, clicking photos.

The car brings a sense of nostalgia to people. “People come and say, ‘Ah did you know that I learnt driving in an ambassador car, did you know I was with my parents and would sit in the back seat of the car’. And it brings back memories, it touches me. And so I will not give the car away and drive it more and more,” Lindner said.  (Agency)

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