The Globally Spirited, History Maker: Rahul Shrivastava

The Globally Spirited, History Maker: Rahul Shrivastava

Animesh Pradhan | Sep 03, 2018

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Born in a small town of Chhattisgarh, Rahul Shrivastava currently serves as the Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, India. As a chemistry enthusiast, he graduated in Chemistry from Ravenshaw College in 1996. He received his Masters in Computer Application from REC (now NIT Rourkela) in 1999. The zeal to serve the nation and his curiosity in gaining knowledge about global affairs made him join Indian Foreign Service in 1999. Thereafter he served in various prestigious positions in Russia, UK and Kazakhstan. At the age of 40, he became India’s youngest ever appointed Ambassador and served in the Indian Embassy in Venezuela as the ambassador from July 2015 to March 2018. He has authored four books till date and has a keen interest in art and painting. This man with words of wisdom has been influencing many young minds and has been entitled as the Top Writer in Quora for the year 2017 and 2018. Team Monday Morning brings you the exclusive interview of this overachieving alumnus of our college.

MM: In this era of social media and technology, it’s easy to gather information about an eminent personality like you who holds such a position of repute. We would like to know how Mr. Rahul Shrivastava is as a person.

RS: It’s always difficult to describe oneself. One may not be objective. Also, a person’s perception of himself may be different from others’ assessment of him.

One aspect on which everyone agrees about me is that I am an introvert. I work hard and expect others to do so. But, I am not a fan of late-sitting at work. Spending time with my family after I get back from work is what I look forward to every day. I like punctuality, orderliness, and discipline at work and in personal life too. 

MM: Kindly share your earliest memories of school life at Rajnandgaon. How were you as a student?

RS: I spent less than a year in Rajnandgaon. I remember the first day of school. I was silently sitting in one corner of the room while everyone around me was wailing. The teacher would occasionally point towards me and tell other children to keep quiet. I was promoted to the next higher class (KG II) in one day.

MM: You had spent most of your earlier days in Odisha. How was the experience in the state? What are the things that you exclusively enjoy here?

RS: I grew up in North Odisha amidst plenty of greenery. The weather was mild throughout the year, and there were four distinct seasons unlike several other parts of India. To this day, I can’t love a place if it’s not very green. I miss the monsoons of Odisha, the mild summers and winters, and the transition between seasons. I’ve fond memories of the festive seasons, too. During Durga Puja, we’d go to various Pandals, including those of neighbouring towns. I love the sweets of Odisha.

MM: You earned your graduation in Chemistry from Ravenshaw College (now University). Was chemistry your passion back then?

RS: Chemistry was always my passion. It was one of my optionals in Civil Services Exam, too. Everyone discouraged me from opting for it. But, I listened to my heart. And I proved myself correct. I got into the IFS because I scored very high marks in Chemistry.

MM: After graduation, you joined REC for Masters in Computer Applications. Why such a shift in interests? What are some of the memories at REC that you would cherish forever?

RS: Although I loved Chemistry, I wanted to have job security, which, I thought, an MCA degree could provide. I, therefore, decided to switch from Chemistry to MCA.

Just outside the rear gate of NIT Rourkela, there was a tea shop. My friends and I’d go there every evening to have tea. It was a good break from the daylong grind of classes and studies. It was always difficult to return to the hostel after the break.

MM: You joined Indian Foreign Service in September 1999, what motivated you to join Civil Services? What would be your advice to the aspirants?

RS: IFS had interested me since my middle-school years. Even as a child, I was interested in world affairs and gaining knowledge about countries abroad. Civil Services also provide the opportunity to serve people. Hence, I wanted to be in the IFS.

Hard work is the key to success in Civil Services Exam. Get the right study material, make a strategy and get going.

MM: What are the challenges you faced to achieve an outstanding rank of 24 in UPSC Civil Services Examination? Share the memories of your preparation for the exam.

RS: Studying simultaneously for MCA and CSE was not easy. But, I made it a point to have MCA as my priority. I’d attend every class and devote about an hour every day revising what was taught in class. After that, I’d study for CSE. I also made sure that I had eight hours of sleep every day. In the three years at NIT Rourkela, I did nothing else but study.

(At the signing-in ceremony in Kremlin, Moscow during the visit of former PM Vajpayee to Russia in 2003)

MM: Your journey as a diplomat started in Russia where you were appointed as the Secretary in Embassy of India, Moscow. How difficult were the initial days in taking up such a dynamic profession?

RS: Initial days were not at all problematic. It was a great relief that I didn’t have to study the whole day. Moscow is a beautiful and exciting place. I learned a lot during my first assignment about work and life, in general.

MM: Eventually, you served at prestigious positions at Kazakhstan and London. Give us a walkthrough of your experiences over there.

RS: In Kazakhstan, I headed our Representative Office in Astana and was Cd’A (Acting Ambassador) in Almaty. As a young IFS officer, I gained a lot of experience because of the independent charges I held. London was very busy. But the posting provided me with a broad exposure since in the four years I was there, I handled work related to Commonwealth, Protocol, Administration, and Projects. I was also Special Assistant to the High Commissioner and headed the Political Department.

MM: In July 2015, at the age of 40, you became the youngest ambassador of India and served as the ambassador of India in Caracas, Venezuela. Tell us how was this journey different and how did you accomplish such an achievement at a young age.

RS: It’s by God’s grace that I got the opportunity to become India’s Ambassador to Venezuela at a young age. Venezuela was a challenging assignment, but I couldn’t have expected a better place as a learning ground for my first ambassadorial assignment. 

 (With President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela at the credentials presentation ceremony as Ambassador of India to Venezuela in July 2015)

MM: Share some of your experiences and events that would always remain special for you as a diplomat.

RS: During my posting in Venezuela, NAM Summit was held in the country. Our then Vice President led our delegation. It was not easy to handle the visit due to the difficult situation in Venezuela. However, the visit was held successfully.

As Ambassador to Venezuela, I was also concurrently accredited to six Dutch Islands in the Caribbean. A category-5 hurricane struck one of the Islands, Sint Maarten in September 2017. Sint Maarten, which has about 3500 Indian-origin people was devastated. I had to carry out an evacuation operation. I didn’t sleep for four continuous days.

MM:  Presently, you are appointed as the Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs. How different is it to work in the country as compared to work in a foreign land?

RS: Missions abroad are field postings. We implement the policies of the government. Working at Headquarters requires more office work. In one way, working in India is easier than working abroad. In India, you are mostly working within a familiar system. 

(At Margarita airport in Venezuela during the NAM Summit along with the Vice President, Tourism Minister and Mining Minister of Venezuela, waiting to receive the Vice President of India in September 2016)

MM: You have been the Top Writer at Quora for the year 2017 and 2018. What drives you to be active at the platform in-spite of such a busy schedule?

RS: I want to inspire more young people to join the IFS and also share my experiences and knowledge with others.

MM: You have authored about four books in past years that have received immense love and appreciation. Tell us what inspired or pushed you to pen down books. Are you planning to publish any new books in the near future?

RS: The only way to get stories out of my head is to put them in words. I have eight more books, which I intend to get published.

MM: Since your profession demands immense hard-work and stress management along with professional pressure, what do you do for relaxation and peace of mind?

RS: I love cooking, painting, and writing.  

MM: There has always been a craze among the youngsters to leave the country and settle in developed nations for better opportunities and lifestyle. How do you see this issue of “Brain Drain”?

RS: India is a democratic country. People decide what they want to do with their future. As India prospers, more people would prefer staying back in India.

MM:  How recently did you visit NIT Rourkela and what did you feel about your visit? What changes did you observe between then and now? Are you in touch with any of your classmates or colleagues now?

RS: I haven’t visited NIT Rourkela after 2001. However, I have followed developments in NIT Rourkela and am pleased that NIT Rourkela has improved in every aspect.

Social media makes it easier to be in touch with former classmates and friends. I’m in touch with several of them.

MM: How important is to maintain a healthy alumni relation with the institution? What initiatives can NIT Rourkela take to do so?

RS: Once something is your alma mater, it is always your alma mater. Even if the alumni are physically away, the institution remains in their heart. NIT Rourkela is already doing a lot to maintain links with alumni.

MM: Hailing from a small town of Chhattisgarh, today you have tales to tell about the 40 odd countries you visited. What has been the inspiration and driving force to conquer your dreams throughout your life?

RS: My parents, relatives, friends, and acquaintances take pride that I’m able to serve my country. They inspire me to serve India and Indians with devotion.

MM: Are there any significant future plans that you would like to share with us?

RS: India is growing rapidly, but we still have several challenges to make the life of our people better. I want to do my bit in making Indians more prosperous and happier.

MM: You have always been an inspiration and role model for the young minds in particular. What does it take to be Rahul Shrivastava? Please enlighten our readers with a few lines of inspiration.

RS: I am a Civil Servant, and I won’t be doing justice to my work if I don’t serve the people.

We live in deeds, not in years, this philosophy resembles the ideology of Mr. Shrivastava who has been influencing and inspiring new talents worldwide. The institute is immensely proud of having a glorious alumnus like him who proves that with sheer determination and hard work one can conquer one’s dreams in spite of any challenges. Team Monday Morning thanks Mr. Shrivastava for this exclusive interview and wishes him good luck and great health.

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