Shashi Tharoor, a prominent figure in Indian politics, is known for his remarkable journey that spans across the realms of diplomacy, politics, and literature. Born on March 9, 1956, in London, UK, to Chandran Tharoor and Sulekha Menon, Shashi Tharoor has had a diverse and influential career. From his early education in India to his days as an international civil servant and his foray into Indian politics, Tharoor's life story is an inspiration to many. Additionally, his prowess as a writer has earned him global recognition.
Tharoor's upbringing was marked by his family's roots in Kerala, with his father, Chandran Tharoor, working in various positions across India. Shashi Tharoor attended prominent educational institutions such as Montfort School in Yercaud and Campion School in Bombay. His journey continued as he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, in 1975.
Tharoor's educational pursuits led him to the United States, where he obtained a Master of Arts in International Relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. His dedication to academia culminated in a Ph.D. in International Relations and Affairs in 1978, making him the youngest recipient of a doctorate in the history of the Fletcher School at the age of 22.
Tharoor's career at the United Nations commenced in 1978 when he joined as a staff member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. He rose through the ranks and played a pivotal role during the boat people crisis, ensuring the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees. His work also involved processing Polish and Acehnese refugee cases.
After stints at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Tharoor was appointed as Special Assistant to the Under-Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs, eventually leading the team responsible for peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia during the civil war. In 1996, he became the Director of Communications and Special Projects and Executive Assistant to Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He was then appointed as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information (UNDPI), where he was instrumental in enhancing the image and effectiveness of the United Nations. He was also responsible for promoting multilingualism.
In 2006, Tharoor was nominated by the Indian government for the position of UN Secretary-General. Although he finished second in the straw polls conducted by the UN Security Council, he narrowly missed the role to Ban Ki-moon of South Korea. This was a significant moment in Tharoor's career and demonstrated India's willingness to play a larger role at the United Nations.
Following his departure from the United Nations in 2007, Shashi Tharoor's career took a political turn. In 2009, he entered Indian politics by joining the Indian National Congress. He successfully represented Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, in the Lok Sabha elections, becoming a Member of Parliament. During the Congress-led UPA government, he served as the Minister of State for External Affairs, making significant contributions to India's foreign policy and diplomacy.
Tharoor's tenure in politics was marked by his independent stance, which sometimes put him at odds with his party's leadership. In 2022, he was defeated in the election for the post of party president by Mallikarjun Kharge. However, he remains a prominent member of the Congress Working Committee, the highest decision-making body of the Indian National Congress.
Shashi Tharoor is not only a seasoned diplomat and politician but also a prolific writer. His literary career is adorned with numerous awards and accolades, including the Sahitya Akademi Award. Tharoor has authored over two dozen titles, and his works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered international recognition.
One of his notable books is "Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India," which critically examines the impact of British colonialism on India. Tharoor's writings have been praised for their insight into Indian history, politics, and society.
Tharoor's public speaking and speeches have gained significant popularity, with his Oxford Union speech amassing over 10 million views on various platforms. He is known for his eloquence and the ability to address complex issues with clarity and wit.
Shashi Tharoor's personal life has been the subject of public interest. He has been married multiple times, and his personal experiences have had both public and private dimensions. His strong identity as a vegetarian and his deep connection to Hinduism highlight the diversity of his personality and beliefs.
Tharoor has also been involved in service and philanthropy, notably as one of the celebrities nominated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promote cleanliness and sanitation through the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Shashi Tharoor's life and career reflect a remarkable journey from a young scholar to a distinguished diplomat and a Member of Parliament. His literary contributions and speeches have made him a prominent figure both in India and on the global stage. Shashi Tharoor's multifaceted career continues to inspire many, reflecting the potential for individuals to excel in diverse fields and make a significant impact on the world.