Katherine B. Hadda, US Consul General in Hyderabad - West Meets East

Consul General Katherine B. Hadda assumed the post of US Consul General in Hyderabad a little over a year ago. Now in her second year in the city, she is grateful for the tremendous support she has received from those around her. Ms Hadda is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, with 28 years of experience in policy positions in Asia, Europe, and Washington, DC. Her assignments have spanned the globe – from Afghanistan, China, Taiwan, the UK and New Zealand, to the State Department, the US Trade Representative’s Office, and as a fellow in the US Congress. We caught up with Ms Hadda to find out what life has been like for her in India.

You’ve just completed a year in Hyderabad as the Consul General. Tell us what your experience has been like so far?
It’s been a wonderful introduction to Hyderabad, this region and India. We do so much work at the consulate to help the growing US-India relationship blossom in the three states in our district: Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha. We facilitate travel and cultural exchanges, provide services to the many American citizens in our area, and promote economic and commercial ties between our two great countries. We are particularly proud of all the work we do with local governments, non-governmental organisations, and educational institutions to promote women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship.

Being the Consul General for three states – Odisha, AP, and Telangana – you must travel quite a lot. Where else in India have you travelled, and what have been some interesting notes from your travels around the country? 
There are so many wonderful things to see and do in these three states. In AP, I’ve really enjoyed visiting lovely Kailasagiri Hill in Vizag, and was moved by the spiritual beauty of the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirupathi. In Odisha, Bhubaneshwar really does deserve its nickname of “the city of temples.” I also enjoyed visiting the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Sun Temple in Konark, and meeting famed sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik in Puri. Here in Hyderabad, the Charminar and Mecca Masjid, Golkonda Fort, and Qutb Shahi tombs are all world-class tourism sites. Outside of our district, I’ve enjoyed visits to New Delhi, Chennai, and Pondicherry. It was a special treat when my husband and I visited the biennale in Kochi. We had been to the one in Venice, and it was wonderful to see all the talented artists from all over India who exhibited in the Kerala version.

Before coming to India, what were your perceptions of the country? And now, after having lived and travelled here, what’s changed?
I had always been impressed with India’s long and fascinating history, cultural heritage, and diversity. Those perceptions haven’t changed, but have rather deepened. I now know more about the role of our consular district in India’s history and culture. And I’m eager to learn more, for example, sampling even more of the delicious cuisine. I’ve become a real fan of locally handcrafted wooden toys and, together with my consulate colleagues, I’m eager to support local handloom. That really is a beautiful part of India’s artistic culture.

What have been some of your favourite parts about living in Hyderabad, and India in general?
I have been touched by the kindness of the people here, both those I meet in the course of my official work and during my downtime. This region’s people are so warm! And it is wonderful that so many of them in Telangana and AP (as much as 25%) have some family connection in the United States. 

What are some other hobbies and passions you indulge in?
I love crossword puzzles and all types of puzzles, really. I love to cook and sample new cuisines. We are enthralled by the local bird life, and try to visit spaces outside of the city where we can birdwatch. We are not experts by any means, but we find the variety and colours of the birds here really breathtaking.

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit set to take place in Hyderabad is around the corner. Can you tell us what you are most looking forward to at this event?
The US-India relationship is getting broader and deeper all the time. Here in Hyderabad alone, we have some 130 US companies – some very major. I believe this means that some 25% of American companies invested in India have at least some type of presence here. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be a chance for our two governments to highlight that relationship, work together to promote entrepreneurship (especially for women), and generally to show our citizens and the rest of the world how the US-India partnership is helping to build global prosperity and stability.    – as told to Suneela