Coffee with MG: Practising Diversity and Inclusion Across the Ocean

25 May 2023 | Coffee with MG, Community in Action

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Traxl

“We are at the end, one global village”

“My skin might be white. My skin might be brown. Whatever is the colour of my skin, the blood beneath is the same red as yours”

“I always tend to see more similarities than differences. I always tend to see more things that we share than our contradictions

“Find the commonalities and emphasize them. Resolve conflicts not by force but by mutual acceptance”             

Dr. Herbert Traxl, Former Austrian Ambassador



Diversity and inclusion. They are big words with vast meaning individualized to unique situations. I strongly believe in the tenet “Where there is a will, there is a way” and this applies to diversity and inclusion in every sphere, be it professional or personal.

Being curiously intercultural, I was intrigued to explore how Dr. Herbert Traxl, the former Austrian ambassador to India and Thailand, among other countries, and Shovana Narayan, the multifacetted Indian Padam Shri Awardee have been married for over forty years and managed living, working and raising a family from two sides of the globe. When I hosted Herbert on my podcast and asked him about diversity and inclusion in his relationship, what I got was a phenomenal love story uniquely lived.

Described as the ego-less frictionless self by his very famous wife, my guest for today is a true exponent of the term straddling continents between the East and the West. As the former Austrian ambassador to India and many other countries, he and his wife have, in a sense embraced the globe.

Two souls from different parts of the world oft meet and decide to unite in marriage nowadays. But how do they keep the marriage together if they are physically working in different continents?

“There is no general recipe. There’s no general way how to do it. You have to find one. But the major thing is to respect the situation of your partner. Respect that she also has her own unique character and her profession. You can’t just tell somebody to stop doing what she had been doing.

It seems that Herbert and Shovana tried their best to combine holidays and if that did not work, just being with the other at times…essentially constantly shuttling between continents.


Distance had no chance. Respect, trust and confidence are the ingredients which kept the union of Herbert and Shovana alive. They found their own unique way of sharing emotions, thoughts and events across the ocean with audiotapes. Did you read the word “audiotapes”? Yes, you did. Every week, they sat down to share their lives on reems of tape which were sent to the other continent, thus building  an unbreakable intimacy.

And how did they manage to bring up their child? That brings up the subject of a third culture kid (for the next blog folks!)

It seems that for the first six years, their son stayed in India, then in Austria and thereafter another story altogether. He hopped to US and back to Austria, constantly shuttling also to India.

What you have to see that at the end we are human beings behaving like other human beings and we should also have certain, human values. Appreciate life. Appreciate the other one. Appreciate freedom of speech, religion, freedom and all kinds of beliefs. And that’s how you have to live. You have the differences. Accept that, but find some ways how you can live despite differences with others”.

Herbert not only philosophizes but practices. The world is one global village, he says and his way of life and that of his family´s clearly shows that. Tolerance, respect and acceptance of others with one requirement. It should be a two-way street. Wise words practised both in his diplomatic career as well as in the private sphere.

In the divided world we inhabit, his parting words “resolve conflict with mutual acceptance” bring a finality to the discussions on diversity and inclusion that have suddenly gained prominence in this decade despite having existed since times immemorial.


Herbert never mentioned the word “Love” in the entire conversation. Yet, his and Shovana´s coming together and remaining together in a unique way is not only one of the most romantic love stories that I have heard and seen but also the most inspiring.

Love is not just the Valentine´s day spoken word but an enduring lived out philosophy based on mutual respect, trust, confidence and sharing. It is a celebration of diversity and inclusion at its deepest. And that is a life well lived and still continuing.

Their marriage has withstood not only the test of distance and time but also the apparent chasm between the eastern and western cultures.

As Herbert wisely pointed out :

“Our skins maybe of different colours but the blood which flows through our bodies is the same red.



Dear readers, what did you think of this beautiful story? Do share your unique experiences as well.

Meanwhile, adieu till next time!

With lots of love from Hamburg,

Meenu Gupta

CEO Vedas Shaakha

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