The inaugural JLF Toronto festival left us with many memories. With conversations like those with playwright Anosh Irani to Slumdog Millionaire brain child Vikas Swarup, there was a lot to reflect on. However, there was another conversation that really made us travel down memory lane: one with Dr. Shashi Tharoor.
We last met Dr. Shashi Tharoor when The Arts Guild first started, back in 2011 when the IIFA Awards were in Toronto. It was refreshing to meet him again as we return to the world of the arts after a short hiatus. This time, however, we had the great opportunity to have a conversation with him, a man who has spent the majority of his career in international affairs.
About Dr. Shashi
Dr. Shashi Tharoor is one of those career international diplomats who needs no introduction. Born in London, England, Dr. Shashi has always had a passion for international affairs, something that started from his early university days: BA in History from the University of Delhi (1975), MA in International Relations (1976), MA in Law and Diplomacy (1977) and Ph.D in International Relations and Affairs (1978) from Tufts University. In 19178, Dr. Shashi began his career with the United Nations, starting off as a staff member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, evolving his roles and responsibilities until 1996. It was then when he was appointed Director of Communications and Special projects and Executive Assistant to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, rising to the ranks of Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information in 2002. After 29 years of service, Dr. Shashi resigned and left the UN in 2007. Before doing so, he ran a campaign for UN Secretary-General in 2006, coming in second to Ban Ki-moon of South Korea.
Beyond his time in international diplomacy and his current political activities in India, Dr. Shashi is an award-winning author of 18 books of fiction and non-fiction, including works such as The Great Indian Novel and the The Paradoxical Prime Minister. He has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and a Crossword Lifetime Achievement Award. He is notable for his eloquence while speaking, captured in his many speeches and debates, including his famous speech decrying British Colonialism that was delivered at the Oxford Union Society in 2015.
Writing has been a fundamental part of Dr. Shashi’s life. From his 29 years with the UN, his time in Indian politics since then, and his work with companies and charities around the world, he has still found time to write and get his message out there. This interview captures his passion for writing, how writing has provided him with an opportunity to explore people and cultures around the world, and fundamentally, why writing is important to him.
Photo: Provided Courtesy of JLF Toronto