#UAEReads: Singapore ambassador on how 'reading is a window into other worlds'

Umej Bhatia, Singapore’s first resident ambassador to the UAE, believes diplomats must be well-read to be effective. “Indeed, being able to read a book is ‘an entrance to the world’,” he says. “Reading is the only true way to contemplate the world from a variety of perspectives. “Diplomats, in particular, who do not read widely, […]

Umej Bhatia, Singapore’s first resident ambassador to the UAE, believes diplomats must be well-read to be effective.

“Indeed, being able to read a book is ‘an entrance to the world’,” he says. “Reading is the only true way to contemplate the world from a variety of perspectives.

“Diplomats, in particular, who do not read widely, may be handicapping themselves, as our basic job requirement is to understand other viewpoints – and reading is a window into other worlds, other cultures and other souls. From this basic knowledge you gain understanding and hopefully wisdom to solve problems of international cooperation or defend your country’s interests.”

Bhatia – who was appointed to his ambassadorial role in January 2014, after serving as consul-general in Dubai – said the first word in the Quran can be interpreted as the injunction to read.

“I have been an avid reader since my elementary school days and studied literature and philosophy in my undergraduate days, which helped to boost my reading load,” he says.

“I advise my children to read widely so they enter imaginatively into other worlds and minds, expand their horizons and, more importantly, develop sympathy and understanding for other people and cultures. Reading is a kind of home schooling for them.”

His 5 favourite books:

Meditations (aka To Myself)

Marcus Aurelius

The Roman emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius wrote a series of private memos to himself, in Greek, for strength and guidance 2,000 years ago. They remain as relevant as ever.

The Peloponnesian War

Thucydides

Among the first historians and political realists, Thucydides was a failed Athenian general who wrote a stunningly successful account of the fifth-century war between his Greek city state and Sparta, with lessons that remain deeply resonant today.

From Third World to First

Lee Kuan Yew

The remarkable story of Singapore’s transformation from backwater to global bridgehead by its late, great founding prime minister.

The Venture of Islam series

Marshall Hodgson

The remarkable magnum opus by a genius in Islamic studies that changed the way Islam was perceived within the framework of world history.

My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

I read this book upon arriving in the UAE and it was an eye-opening experience into the mind of a remarkable visionary of development and can-do spirit in the Middle East.

artslife@thenational.ae

Source: art & life

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