The Indian consulate in Ho Chi Minh City sponsored a performance of Indian classical dance last night. The consulate invited the consuls general of the various consulates in the city. Our Consul General had a time conflict, and so another officer got to accept the invitation. I was the fastest to hit the “reply” button on the email, so I got the honor of representing America.
I know nothing about Indian classical dance (and after seeing the performance, I still don’t), but it doesn’t take expert knowledge of art in order to appreciate it. I was absolutely stunned by the performance. The dancing was athletic, but with very intricate and strictly controlled movements and gestures as well. The dancers used their eyes to express emotions, it was like their eyes were speaking. The costumes were gorgeous, and I was seated close enough to the stage to see everything in detail.
A few of my counterparts from the Indian consulate sat next to me. After the first act, one leaned over and asked what I thought. For some reason, the dancing made me emotional. I wanted to jump up and down, and break down and cry, at the same time. I was literally speechless. “Oh my God,” I managed to squawk out. I think he smiled. I hope he knew that that was a good “Oh my God.” Because it was.
The show was amazing, and it was such a treat to represent my country there. Before the show started, I met and talked with a number of Indian diplomats, and several members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam. It was also fascinating to witness international relations between two other countries. The protocol was very similar, the structure of the diplomatic part of the event would be familiar to any American diplomat. Dignitaries from both countries said nice things about each other’s country, and praised the great relationship between the two nations. But the content of the remarks was very interesting, too, in what they did and didn’t talk about. They emphasized cultural exchange, but not some areas that the U.S. emphasizes in our diplomatic work, like education and security. The nature of the relationship between Vietnam and India is just different from the relationship that we have with Vietnam.
So this was another terrific experience. Next time I see my boss, I’ll have to thank her for being so busy that I could take her place at the event. And I’m very grateful to the Indian consulate for being so graciously welcoming at the event, and for sharing some of their culture.