When then 53-year-old Dnyaneshwar Mulay was inducted as consul general of India in New York City on April 23, 2013, it was said to come as little surprise to the people of India. Mulay had become well-known throughout that nation of 1.25 billion people for his governmental service during his 30-year career. On an international level, that service included assignments to a variety of key diplomatic positions in locations as diverse as Tokyo, Moscow, Mauritius, Maldives, and Damascus. And on the domestic front, his assignments covered an array of mostly major financial posts, including the high-profile position of director of the Ministry of Finance.
In addition, Mulay had become celebrated in India for his accomplishments in another field—that of literature. His 15 nonfiction books, in which he analyzed often complex educational, social, environmental, theological, technological, and international issues, had won him national and international critical acclaim, along with a host of prestigious literary awards; also critically heralded was his one book of poetry, which describes the dilemma of young men and women trying to find meaning in post-independence India, and his one novel, which was based on his own life story: that of rising from a humble childhood to his current prominence.
If you guessed, however, that with such an impressive résumé, Mulay’s first initiative as consul general back in 2013 would be directly connected to his prior impressive public and private career, you would be wrong. “In fact,” Mulay informed me when I interviewed him in the historic Consulate General Building in Midtown Manhattan recently, “My first task when I took over 18 months ago was to try to clean unnecessary papers stored in the building.”
Actually the papers he was referring to, some of which were past travel documents of Indian visitors to America going as far back as just a few years after the turn of the 20th century, need to be cleaned. Citing the age of the building, Mulay explained, “When I first toured the consulate, which is 111 years old, I saw that the basement, subbasement, and passageways were jumbled with stacks of countless cupboards and documents, many very old.”
Mulay added that beyond his initial alarm about the unkempt appearance of the building, he feared the clutter presented a serious fire hazard; he also noted that he was concerned that this disarray would make it unnecessarily difficult for the consulate’s 20-member staff to effectively organize current documents, including visa applications and passports.
To address these concerns, Mulay said he applied the basic philosophy of “Swachh Bharat,” a highly publicized national campaign spearheaded by Prime Minister Modi a year ago, to clean and restore streets, roads, and highways throughout more than 4,000 Indian towns. “We have attached the word Swachh [“clean”] to our own campaign, which we call ‘Swachh Consulate,'” Mulay explained. “On a consulate level, Swachh Consulate applies the same fundamental principle Prime Minister Modi used in his comprehensive Swachh Bharat national cleanup campaign.”
“That principle,” Mulay elaborated, “is simply that a clean environment is essential to the physical and spiritual health and wellbeing of every human being. … For us, of course, cleanliness and, in turn, orderliness were prerequisites to achieving our goal of being able to safely store and accurately track the more than 200,000 documents entrusted annually to us by temporary and long-term visitors from America to India and Indian passport applicants.”
Modernization and Conservation
However, just as Mulay was reportedly receiving high marks from his superiors in New Delhi for achieving that goal, they assigned him to oversee another environmental-related project in the consulate. “The government of India and the Metropolitan Museum of New York partnered in a plan to modernize and renovate the consulate building, just about as we were completing the initial cleanup. This modernization involves conservation of this landmark building, its interiors, woodwork, ceilings, and fireplaces,” he said.
“The project,” he continued, “also involves the complete renovation and modernization of all of the visitor areas; this is extremely important because, in addition to people of Indian backgrounds, many of the visitors to our consulate are ordinary Americans, tourists coming from a variety of nations, foreign and American dignitaries, government officials and business leaders, and, also, members of the worldwide media. For them, our building is like a first glimpse of India itself. We all now feel proud that the clean, modern, beautiful ambience of the consulate presents to all [of them] the image of a country that is emerging as a world leader.”
While this project consumed a great deal of his time and energy, Mulay said he understands that such work is an essential part of the job.
“Improving upon and maintaining the physical condition of the consulate building has historically always been one of the two basic responsibilities assigned to the consul general of every nation,” he explained.
Mulay, however, made it a point to emphasize that the time and effort he continues to devote to performing this first responsibility does not interfere with his ability to perform the second of the two jobs traditionally associated with the position of the consul general, which is to promote and increase trade between the home and host country.
With trade between America and India trending upward in recent years, reaching nearly $100 billion this past calendar year, a historical high constituting a 60 percent increase from pre-Modi India, Mulay said he feels exhilarated to be working in a position where he can help further develop this already burgeoning financial relationship between these two nations.
“I feel extremely fortunate at this exciting time to be consul general in America and thus to be able to work for implementing the vision of Prime Minister Modi, who has reinvigorated the economic relationship between our two great nations,” Mulay stated. “There has been under Prime Minister Modi a steady rise in the exchange of goods, services, labor, and capital between America and India. And the main beneficiaries from both nations have been the consumer and the worker.”
The married father of two sons and one daughter, all young adults, Mulay, a self-described optimist, added that he believes “the close relationship now developing between India and America will be the bridge to a better economic future for every adult and every child from both nations, and, in these days of a global economy, the entire world.”
Let’s hope this prediction comes true.
Robert Golomb is a nationally published columnist. Mail him at MrBob347@aol.com and follow him on Twitter @RobertGolomb
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.