Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Dil se: Deepening ties with Telugus

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Gareth Wynn Owen, since his appointment as the Deputy High Commissioner to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in September 2022, has been deepening the United Kingdom’s engagement in the two Telugu states by promoting business and trade links as well as strengthening cooperation in the fields of Science and Education.

Gareth led the work on securing the UK’s ASEAN Dialogue Status in 2021. He was part of the cross-government team that developed the Indo-Pacific tilt framework which was published in March 2021 in the UK Government’s Integrated Review. In a conversation with The Pioneer’s K. Ramya Sree, Gareth Wynn Owen shares the high points of his diplomatic journey, locating his dream house in the UK, interest in international policies, family, free time, and more.

Calm baby…

I was definitely a calm baby. I was too calm. My parents told me so. My fondest memories from childhood always remind me of just spending hours and hours running around the streets with my friends. We used to playa lot the game called ‘Kick the can’. That’s the fondest memory I have from childhood. I was born in a city called Chester in the north of England. It is a small city. I once took my mother’s bicycle for a ride, though it was too big for me. I sprained my ankle and I got into a lot of trouble after that.

Interest in international travel…

I have always had an interest in international travel. I have an interest in international policies and economic development. I studied Economics and Development at the University College London and the School of Oriental and African Studies. I saw some opportunities in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), a department of the Government of the United Kingdom.One advantage of being with FCDO is that every two or three years you travel to places round the world. My jobs tick many areas of my interest whether it is physical development and economic development, or social development. That’s why I chose this profession.

AP and TS…

I am really enjoying being the Deputy High Commissioner to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. I am learning more about the two states. I have just come back from Vizag, and I am really liking travelling around these two states and learning more about them. These two states are developing at rapid rates. They are making their economies stronger. I told my colleagues around my network and people in the UK about Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; how ambitious these governments are.

Marriage and kids…

I am married and I have two children — one is eleven years old and the other is nine. My wife Molly is American. We met about 20 years ago. I am celebrating my 17th wedding anniversary this month. My mother died when I was 15 years and my father died when I was 20 years. I have one sister who lives in my hometown in Chester. Losing my mother at the age of 15 was really tough on me. As a young boy seeing my mother ill was really difficult for me.

Family time…

Spending quality time with Molly and my children as well as involving myself in some activities is how my weekends are spent generally. As a family, we really enjoy swimming. Finding a pool, swimming, lounge around and play – this is probably our idea of a blissful weekend in Hyderabad. We all feel rejuvenated after the family event.

I like most of the street food here. Ofcourse, I enjoy eating Hyderabadi mutton biryani. I should attempt cooking biryani. I love the weather here. I don’t miss the snow back home. Also,I like the people I am meeting every day. They make me feel at home.  

Education is really important. Indian students now make the largest international community in the UK. Hundreds of students are attending universities. My job is something I enjoy, trying to strengthen relationships between universities and the UK. I certainly feel that maintaining international relationships is importantto tackle global challenges. The most important element of that is more education, more research links.

Moving to India…
This is the first time that I am working in India. Me moving from the UK — I definitely had concerns before I came out from that place to here. But I realised that the Telugu-speaking states are wonderful to live in. Overall, they have made my job relatively straightforward.

Rapid fire…

If you had to describe yourself in a sentence or in one word, what would that be?
It’s always looking for the positive side.

What’s your spiritual side like?

Having travelledto so many countries, what’s your favourite holiday destination?

I’m not sure if my children would like this, I like being in the islands.

Do you have any pastime?

I like exercise, swimming, cycling. I enjoy playing street cricket with my children. I like playing a card game – bridge. I am a social bridge player.

Proudest moment of your career

Having this job. I was very proud when I got selected for this role in India. There was a lot of competition.  

How do you deal with your mental health?

I exercise. I am a great believer, believer. That helps.

Your constantly on the move, you’re being transferred every three years. Where do you want your dream house to be?

Somewhere on the coast. I find looking at the seas and oceans very peaceful. May be somewhere in the UK, where the weather is heavy. I want to feel the waves. I would like to live in front of some calm lake.

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