Dr.Shashi Tharoor (born 9 March 1956) is currently the Minister of State for External Affairs of the Republic of India and a member of the Indian Parliament from the Trivandrum constituency in Kerala. He served as the UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information between June 2002 and February 2007, during the term of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations. In 2006, he was the official candidate of India for the office of United Nations Secretary-General, and came second out of seven official candidates in the race. He is also an author, journalist, human-rights advocate, humanitarian and adviser or fellow of various institutions, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Aspen Institute, and the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
Early life and background
Shashi Tharoor was born in London. His roots are in Palakkad, Kerala, India. He studied at Montfort School in Yercaud and Campion School in Mumbai, attended High School at St. Xavier’s Collegiate School in Kolkata, winning a gold medal for the best student in West Bengal State, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi where he stood first in the University, graduating with a record score in History (Honours).
While at St. Stephen’s Tharoor was actively involved in the Debating Society, where he won every single debating prize available, the Quiz Club, which he founded, and the Students’ Union, of which he was the elected President. He then completed a Ph.D. at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachusetts, where he also earned two Master’s degrees. His Ph.D. was awarded when he was 22, a Fletcher record.
In 1978, Tharoor began working for the United Nations, serving with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, whose Singapore office he headed during the “boat people” crisis. He began as a senior official at the United Nations headquarters in New York in 1989, where, until late 1996, he was responsible for peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia.
From January 1997 to July 1998, he was executive assistant to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. He was appointed director of communications and special projects in the office of the Secretary-General, and in January 2001, he was appointed by the Secretary-General as interim head of the Department of Public Information. On 1 June 2002, he was confirmed as the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information. In this capacity, he was responsible for the communication strategy, enhancing the image and effectiveness of the UN. In 2003, the Secretary-General appointed him to the additional responsibility of United Nations Coordinator for Multilingualism.
Tharoor's was an exceptional UN career, rising as he did from the P-2 level to the highest possible rank of Under-Secretary-General in a mere 23 years. He was privileged to play a key role in some of the major events of his time, from the Vietnamese boat people crisis to the Yugoslav Civil Wars, to serve in both the humanitarian and peace-keeping arenas as well as in the Secretary-General's office. He established a reputation at the Department of Public Information as a reformer and as the UN's most articulate voice for the principles of the United Nations Charter and the work of multilateralism in an increasingly unipolar world.. He took a number of initiatives, ranging from organizing and conducting the first-ever UN seminar on anti-Semitism and also the first-ever UN seminar on Islamophobia to launching an annual list of "Ten Under-Reported Stories the World Ought to Know About". Tharoor resigned from the post of Under Secretary General on February 9, 2007 and left the UN effective 1 April 2007.
Political Career in India
On 19 March 2009, Tharoor was declared as the Indian National Congress candidate of the Trivandrum constituency in Kerala for the General Elections in 2009. Tharoor won the 2009 election featured in a five-cornered contest against P. Ramachandran Nair of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Neelalohitadasan Nadar of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), M.P. gangadharan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and P. K. Krishna Das of Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP). Tharoor's political website, www.shashitharoor.in, and use of new media technologies in his campaign (including emails, voice SMS, and the use of social networking websites Facebook and Twitter) set the benchmark for future political websites and organizing in India. Tharoor defeated his nearest CPI rival P. Ramachandran Nair by a margin of around 100,000 votes when the results were announced on 16 May, 2009.
On 28th May 2009, Shashi Tharoor was sworn in as Minister of State to the Union Government of India as External Affairs minister, in the Council of Ministers of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Tharoor has written numerous books in English. Most of his literary creations are centred on Indian themes and they are markedly “Indo-nostalgic.” Perhaps his most famous work is The Great Indian Novel, published in 1989, in which he uses the narrative and theme of the famous Indian epic Mahabharata to weave a satirical story of Indian life in a non-linear mode with the characters drawn from the Indian Independence Movement. His novel Show Business (1992) was made into the film 'Bollywood' (1994). The late Ismail Merchant had announced his wish to make a film of Tharoor’s novel Riot shortly before Merchant’s death in 2005.
Tharoor has been a highly-regarded columnist in each of India's three best-known English-language newspapers, most recently for The Hindu newspaper (2001-2008) and in a weekly column, “Shashi on Sunday,” in the Times of India (January 2007 - December 2008). Previously he was a columnist for the Gentleman magazine and the Indian Express newspaper, as well as a frequent contributor to Newsweek International and the International Herald Tribune. His Op-Eds and book reviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, amongst other papers.
Tharoor began writing at the age of 6 and his first published story appeared in the “Bharat Jyoti”, the Sunday edition of the "Free press Journal", in Mumbai at age 10. His World War II adventure novel Operation Bellows, inspired by the Biggles books, was serialized in the Junior Statesman starting a week before his 11th birthday. Each of his books has been a best-seller in India. The Great Indian Novel is currently in its 26th edition in India and his newest volume, The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone has undergone five hardback reprintings there.
Tharoor has lectured widely on India, and is often quoted for his observations, including, "India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay." He has also coined a memorable comparison of India's "thali" to the American "melting pot": "If America is a melting pot, then to me India is a thali--a selection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls. Each tastes different, and does not necessarily mix with the next, but they belong together on the same plate, and they complement each other in making the meal a satisfying repast."
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