Saturday, August 11, 2018

Ratan Kaul Ambassador of Public Diplomacy

Ashok Ogra,

Kaul image from

Festivals and exhibitions play an important role in promoting cultural heritage and diversity. They are catalysts for intercultural dialogue and they reach out to people from different backgrounds and across generations.

All this allows us to enjoy diverse range of music and visual and performing art forms thus enriching our lives. In many ways, these events are the embodiment of our civilizational ethos and heritage. Respecting and celebrating diversity.

This is particularly true in the case of India – its rich traditions, art and music and literature and films – need a platform for wider dissemination and exposure, thus, fostering understanding and appreciation.

And these joyous events can only take place only when there is conscious effort to seek larger public participation through promotion. That calls for fruitful cooperation between artists, writers, musicians, authors, government bodies …and those who have the requisite expertise in organizing such events and create necessary media hype to motivate people to attend and participate in these festivals.

Coupled with art and cultural festivals, lately publishing industry too has shown robust growth with many Indians opting to write books. Book launches too demand great organizational skills to influence sale/readership.

It is in this context that Mrs. Ratan Kaul who describes herself a Public Diplomat has earned a name. Looking at the range of activities that she engages in, perhaps, one can call her a true Ambassador of Art and Culture, and Public Diplomacy. [JB emphasis] She is a Social Architect and a Peacenik.

She has been in the forefront of organizing art fairs and exhibitions to enhance opportunities for artists, broadening the contemporary art audience, and establishing a continuous dialogue between artists and public. In not too distant past art was bought for art’s sake and not for investment purpose. Today commerce defines art scene- thus attracting decent buyers. She plays an important role in projecting young talented artists who otherwise would remain unnoticed.

Late last month Ratan organized an event that saw the inauguration of the Prithvi Fine Art & Cultural Centre, New Delhi – founded by noted artist and poet Sangeeta Gupta.

I first met Ratan at a book launch several years ago, and since then I have been a witness to her commitment and passion for promoting art and culture and introducing authors – both known and new to the general public.

Authors, editors and other book-minded people talk a lot about the importance of book launches to generate lots of media coverage, favourable reviews and word of mouth momentum.

It is true that book launches that she arranges do not guarantee book’s success and authors are not doomed if there is no launch. But a successful launch has its own rewards.

“Launching a book is exhausting. There are so many moving pieces of getting a book out on the market. It is lot of hard work,” Ratan explains.

She has organized numerous class book launches / book discussions with well known authors and publishers, among them was also the discussion on PM Narendra Modi’s book in the presence of Arun Jaitely & Prakash Javdekar and several others. Recently, she hosted a discussion on ‘Why I am a Hindu’ – book by the same name authored by Shashi Tharoor – that evoked lots of interest.

Credit goes to Ratan for conceptualizing the Delhi Literature Fest in 2013 – a fest that has now become an annual event.

She also organizes several international conferences, seminars, and award functions.

The annual International Women’s Day awards’ that she launched over a decade ago is much eagerly anticipated event in Delhi’s calendar.

No wonder, Ratan has emerged as a well known name in the social, cultural, diplomatic, business and political circles of Delhi and beyond. Notwithstanding these multifarious activities, she continues to be a proud Kashmiri by heart: she is the Executive President of the Kashmiryat Preservation Foundation.

The Public Diplomacy Forum (PDF) founded by Ratan Kaul and Shilpa Raina Wahal is in the forefront of shaping evolving debates across issues, ranging from global governance reforms and climate change to peace in their motherland Kashmir – showcasing to the global community the Paradise that Kashmir was.

Always elegantly dressed, Ratan is always thinking of newer ways of showcasing our rich cultural heritage, promoting artists and authors and ways to further the cause of peace across religious and caste divide and international borders.

One newspaper described her path-breaking, proactive and pragmatic- encapsulating her personality and several roles that she performs with great ease and sophistication.

Apolitical by nature, Ratan hobnobs seamlessly across party barriers: Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Shashi Tharoor, Farooq Abdullah etc…

That she is at ease with all shades of politicians is only because she remains singularly focused in her mission and does not allow herself to be sucked into political maneuvering that defines Lutyens Delhi.

She is a recipient of several Awards and accolades, foremost among them being ‘Ambassador of Peace ‘ from the Peace Federation at Geneva and the PRIDE of INDIA in the category of ‘Outstanding Woman Achiever ‘.

Ratan is an alumnus of Sophia College, Ajmer and has earned her Master’s Degree in Linguistics from Delhi University. She is an excellent communicator.

Ratan is also Vice President of Indian Council of UN Relations and Consulting Editor of Business Sphere. She is also associated with J & K NGO -Aashiana.

In short, Mrs. Ratan Kaul is one of the most prominent faces outside of Parliament and Board-rooms.

Her success lies in elevating the experience of all those who attend the various baithaks/ art and music festivals, book launches / discussions, international conferences and seminars that she conceptualizes and arranges – thus bringing people together as they share diverse experiences.

The author is a noted management & media educator. He was earlier Regional Director, Discovery Channel ( South Asia)

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