As I go to the embassy and open my e-mail, there are the normal clutch of commercial news letters, trade enquiries, complaints about visa or passport services, invitations for events and so on.
But these days, also something a little bit more unusual. These are queries about the significance of the bindi. 'Can a sari be stitched, or worn without a blouse?' Or 'Is Kali the name of a curry or something spicier?' and such other matters of Indian exotica. And all this in Brazil where I am the Indian ambassador, experiencing currently the strangest and strongest manifestation of India's soft power that I have ever seen in my long and varied career.
How has this unprecedented arousal of curiosity about India come about in this distant land?
It is the result of a soap on Brazil's most important television channel, a soap which started in January and will run till September, every day for seven months. This novella, as television soaps are called in Brazil is predictably called Passage to India (Caminho das Indias in the original Portuguese) and is bringing India into the living rooms of a large majority of Brazilian homes night after night, and as I said for seven months.
B S Prakash is the Indian ambassador to Brazil.