With young Gujaratis venturing into farthest reaches of outer space, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an Amdavadi girl is now a diplomat with the US government. Meet Namita Shah Biggins, Vice Consul at the US Consulate General at Bandra in Mumbai.
Converse with Namita in English and you wouldn’t know she is a Gujarati; and not until she speaks in impeccable Gujarati, you wouldn’t know how much of Amdavad is ingrained in her.
“I was born here and we (she and her family) lived in a pol. I have vivid memories of running around pols with friends. We shifted to Gandhinagar and when I was five, we moved home to Thaltej,” said Namita in a conversation with dna. She was in Ahmedabad recently with US Consul General Peter Haas during his two-day tour of the city. Her family shifted to the US in 1990.
Namita studied till Class 5 at AG High School in Ahmedabad in the English medium, which held her good stead when she moved to the US. She didn’t have to appear for an ‘English’ test and was directly admitted to the sixth grade there.
But a job in the US State Department, in which she eventually got into in 2010, didn’t come as easy. “I appeared for the entrance examination (for State Dept) but couldn’t qualify. I took a job in the banking sector and studied for an MBA simultaneously,” said Namita. “Even while the banking job was going well, I knew I wanted to do something international; for I knew many languages including Spanish, Hindi, English and Gujarati. I wasn’t meant to be working in one city for one job.” She passed the State Dept test in 2009. And after a process spanning 18 months, she was appointed the Vice Consul to India at Mumbai.
Namita is settled in North Carolina with her husband and a three-year-old son.
She has been working out of Mumbai since her appointment in May this year. She has visited Ahmedabad three times since then and is visibly impressed by how the city has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts – with its wider roads, and a cleaner and greener environment than Mumbai.
“I think Ahmedabad is a great model of progress for India and other developing countries, but what the city should emphasise upon is inclusive growth,” said Namita. “Wherever there’s a growth story, a part of the population (of that region) gets left behind. Maybe, Ahmedabad can do things differently and include all in the development process.”
But what is the secret to her immaculate Gujarati, though having lived in the US for years? “My mother deserves credit (for this). She always insisted my brother and I should communicate in Gujarati, said Namita. “When we asked her for something in English, she would respond in Gujarati. She insisted we should know our language and culture.”