Kofi Annan is a man with a mission. But Shashi Tharoor — the Indian nominee to the post of the secretary general of the United Nations — “inhabits several worlds at the same time.”
The writer-diplomat is “deeply honoured” by New Delhi’s gesture. “I believe in the UN and see it as a force that can make a difference to the world,” he told the BBC on Thursday night. “I have spent 28 years in the UN...I think I can bring a lot of experience and commitment to the job,” he added. As for his chances of winning the race— “it is as good and bad as anyone else”.
Tharoor straddles both his worlds — that of a diplomat and writer — with ease. “One needs space and time inside one’s head to write,” he says. “One of the reasons why it has taken me so long to produce so new novels is that to create an alternative universe that you write about, one needs a little more coherent collective space I have in my life”.
He is a man of leisure — taking time out of his job to spend a few lazy evenings with fellow expats. Attired in a kurta, he is often found holding forth on Indian culture and politics in some of New York’s elite drawing rooms. Sometime, he goes out of his way to make an occasional appearance at an Oonam and Holi gathering. Tharoor writes whenever he can — but mostly on weekends. He does so without any breaks. His audience is essentially Indian and to a lesser degree others — who have some measure of interest in the country.
But books take a backseat on missions abroad. The author — perhaps one of the few not to carry a laptop — does not like mixing business with pleasure.
Words come naturally to Tharoor. He took to writing at 10 — his first published work dating back to 1966. But the “reality of life and the belief in the ability of UN to change the world forced him to lead separate lives”. “I have several books to my credit and I thrive on raving reviews and modest sales, so the option of writing full time never struck me as I had a family to feed.” Home state Kerala is proud. Chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan said on Thursday he would do the “state and the country a honour if he wins the race. Tharoor is the most deserving and his candidature has been welcomed by all,” Achuthanandan said in Thiruvananthapuram.
The intelligentsia is also upbeat. “Wearing several hats comes naturally to Shashi. His experience and rapport with world leaders will make him the best man for the job, ” academic Ninan Koshi said.
(With inputs from HT Correspon dents, agencies and the Internet)