In an interview with Verve Magazine, Queen Rania talks about her visit to India
What brings you back to India?
When I visited in March (2006), I just loved it so much. I enjoyed being there, I enjoyed the people. India is the kind of place that you want to keep going back to. And we hope this will signal the opening of a new page of the relationship between India and Jordan. We are natural partners in terms of the direction that we choose for our people, the way we think, the way we do things. This will hopefully open the door for areas of cooperation at the public level, in private sector and with nongovernmental organisations.
Has anything concrete emerged from your India visit?
We have not even started to tap into the potential. You have made great strides in terms of your IT sector and in we've been trying to develop and encourage that here. For some IT companies here, there is a lot to be done. We've also focused on education extensively; you've made great strides and there are many areas which we can explore to develop that. In the private sector, and on the political level, there is a lot that we can do together. We are on the same sheet of music in terms of what we want for our people: we hope to bring harmony and balance between our traditions as well as embracing modernity and globalisation to fight extremism. We both want to take our youth into the 21st century equipped with education and skills. We are natural partners because we speak the same language. We have to take this language and turn it into something concrete.
On your visit to India last year, you visited NGOs in the Delhi slums?
It was fantastic. It took me to areas that I would not have gone to otherwise. The beauty of this interaction is you really get to meet people from all walks of life and get the full spectrum of what the Indian culture and people are all about.
Are you familiar with Indian designers?
I have not been aware of Indian designers, but I know that there is quite a lot of creativity there. This is something I would like to get to know. The workmanship is to be envied. I feel that the artisans really put their heart and soul and time in producing and that is something to treasure our fast paced world.
Do you see yourself wearing an Indian designer in the near future?
Absolutely! I would love to.
What in your growing up years prepared you to take centre stage and be queen?
I grew up always liking to take up challenges. I went to a very international school. We had students from over 70 countries and this multicultural environment really shaped the way I am today and the way that I view the world—especially in today’s world where there is so much tension between different peoples and cultures, where societies have really changed in the last five to 10 years, where there is so much diversity—of nationality, of religion or history. Unfortunately, this diversity, this social metamorphism that we're going through, has caused some tensions and that is a result of our lack of ability to understand that these differences can actually be enriching. If we focus on our similarities, and take the differences for what they are then that could add a lot of dimension to our life. That is the kind of upbringing that really helped me to see the world as I do today—to look at others, even if they look different, dress different, worship different, as my brothers and sisters.
Coming out on so many platforms, like the Davos World Economic Forum or the India Today Conclave, do you see yourself as a messenger of the Arab World, a voice of moderation?
I refuse to self-appoint myself or to assign titles. I think that this was just a role that emerged naturally out of the circumstances and environment that we live in today where the world is facing threats from extremists— in all religions. In light of that, there have been growing tensions whose roots are more in politics than religion. I felt it was my duty to bring that to people’s attention and show that these religions all adhere to similar values and principles of tolerance and peace, acceptance and kindness. We have to deal with the issues behind these tensions and they are invariably related to politics, poverty, lack of integration, lack of hope and opportunity. At the end of the day, it is lack of hope – for whatever reason.
What is it that has made the world sit up and take notice of you?
Although there are people who agree with how I feel, there are those who disagree, and that is a natural part of being in the public eye. As long as one has clear vision and strong faith in what they're doing and saying, and knowing that you're doing this for the betterment of others, then I think you have to be steadfast and determined.
What has been your reaction to India and Indian women?
The country embraces you in beauty, culture, atmosphere, people, hospitality…. There's a diverse spectrum of women. I met all types: women who were extremely well educated, very strong, professional, and progressive. I met some who were more traditional. All demonstrate determination and kindness.
Women all over the world face similar challenges and you find gender inequality everywhere although it sometimes manifests itself in different ways. In some countries women are deprived of basic rights; in other countries it's a bit more at the higher level. But all in all, women do have to work harder to prove themselves.
You once said that being a Queen is overrated. Do you feel that still?
Being queen is very much a perception from outside. I don’t think of myself as a queen. It is a position, almost a job title which entails several duties and responsibilities and I just try to do my best to fulfill those in the best way I can. It can be hard, but there's a great amount of opportunity in terms of making a difference and anyone who has that opportunity should take it very seriously.
How do you balance your duties and your family?
It is very difficult. It is difficult even within the family—balancing between the four children— where I feel sometimes that I spend too much time with one child or the other. So it's just a constant struggle and I think guilt becomes your lifelong partner in this because you always feel guilty whether it's towards your work or your family or your duties. But, you can lessen it by accepting that you can’t do everything for everyone. ‘Prioritise and compromise’ is the best way to deal with it. In my 20s, I wanted to do everything and be there for everyone. Now I'm a little bit kinder to myself. You have to accept that there will be compromises and be flexible.
How do you manage to always look fantastic and in the height of current fashion?
Again, this is something that I have grown into. In your 20s, you struggle to identify your look and style. And as this evolves with time, you get comfortable with a style that does not fight with you but enhances you. You become more comfortable in your own skin in your 30s and so you are comfortable in your clothes. I know a certain look works for me and I am comfortable with that I stick to it.
Do you have some favorite designers?
There are quite a few. Burberry is one of the ones I really like. Chloe is very good…
Do you have a style team that works with your look?
No, not at all. I choose my own clothes while my personal assistant helps me coordinate the purchases. If I had a team, it would be less about me and more about what this group of people thinks that I should look like. This is much too personal.
What are your style fetishes?
I am really into lounge clothes these days. I just want to come home, slip into a pair of track pants and be comfortable.
What do you do together as a family?
We watch movies a lot. We like to cook together— the children love that; we go for walks; go to restaurants. A lot of times we're in our house in Aqaba, which is by the beach, so we enjoy going for a boat ride or fishing.
What do you do when you want to be by yourself?
Driving and being alone in the car…I put on some music and this, for me, is one of the best ways to unwind. I enjoy a combination of music: there's a lot of Arabic music out there that's great…I also have some CDs of Indian music.
Have you watched any of Bollywood's famous movies?
I've watched quite a few. My favourite movie this year is an Indian movie, Water, which is an amazing and powerful film about widows in India. It's not a Bollywood movie but it is an ‘Indian’ one.
Indian cuisine, by the way, is my favourite at the moment. We have tried cooking it and have visited many Indian restaurants. Even Indian fusion food is great, but there’s nothing like traditional Indian food when you want to hit the spot.
What is the most difficult thing that you have to do in your life?
The most difficult thing is leaving my children when I have to travel. I can’t get used to that and I find myself stressed out before every visit.
Do you maintain a fitness regime?
Actually, today is the first day that I have my cast off since I had broken my foot! I don't have a regime because I think when you say 'fitness regime' you want to escape from it. I try to keep it flexible and do things I enjoy like jogging, cycling, or swimming. And sometimes I just do nothing – it is important to respond to the needs of your body.
You have met with Mrs Sonia Gandhi. How did you relate to her?
She is an incredible lady – inspirational, charismatic and the kind of lady that you can talk to for a long period of time.
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Queen Rania's official website
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