Shashi Tharoor is an Indian author, diplomat, and politician who has twice been elected Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He was previously Minister of State in the Government of India for External Affairs and Human Resource Development. Tharoor was born in London in 1956, grew up in Bombay and Calcutta, and left India in 1975 for graduate school in the United States. In 1978, at the age of twenty-two, he earned a doctorate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, which was published as the monograph Reasons of State: Political Development and India’s Foreign Policy Under Indira Gandhi, 1966–1977. Until 2007, Tharoor was an official at the United Nations, where he worked for nearly three decades, rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General of the Department of Public Information in 2001. He was India’s nominee to replace Kofi Annan as the Secretary General of the United Nations, but finished second to Ban Ki-moon in the 2006 elections for that office. Tharoor has written fifteen works of fiction and nonfiction, including the award-winning The Great Indian Novel, which retells contemporary Indian history through the ancient Hindu epic the Mahabharata, and a trilogy of nonfiction works on the idea of India. He has also written hundreds of columns for publications including The New York Times, The Hindu, The Times of India, and Newsweek International. He currently writes an internationally syndicated monthly column for Project Syndicate.
Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, a doctoral candidate in Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley (and, full disclosure, Tharoor’s niece), and Tharoor briefly discuss his relationship with India, domestic politics, and India’s evolving role in world affairs.