Author, peace-keeper, refugee worker, human rights activist and now political candidate for the Indian Parliament, Shashi Tharoor straddles several worlds of experience.
Chairman of Dubai-based Afras Ventures and former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Shashi Tharoor was the official candidate of India for the succession to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006, and came a close second out of seven contenders in the race. His career began in 1978, when he joined the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, and included key responsibilities in peace-keeping after the Cold War and as a senior adviser to the Secretary-General, as well as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
Dr. Tharoor is also the award-winning author of nine books, as well as hundreds of articles, op-eds and book reviews in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek and The Times of India. He has served for two years as a Contributing Editor and occasional columnist for Newsweek International. Since April 2001 he has authored a fortnightly column in The Hindu and since January 2007 in The Times of India.
Born in London in 1956, Dr. Tharoor was educated in India and the United States, completing a Ph. D. in 1978 at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he received the Robert B. Stewart Prize for Best Student. At Fletcher, Shashi Tharoor helped found and was the first Editor of the Fletcher Forum of International Affairs, a journal now in its 31st year. A compelling and effective speaker, he is fluent in English and French.
In January 1998, Dr. Tharoor was named a "Global Leader of Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is the recipient of several awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was named to India’s highest honour for Overseas Indians, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, in 2004. He serves on the Board of Overseers of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the board of trustees of the Aspen Institute India, and the Advisory Boards of the World Policy Journal, the Virtue Foundation and the human rights organization Breakthrough. He is also a Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities.
Question: Whom would you interview, and what would you ask?
Shashi Tharoor: I’m tempted to say President Bush to ask him what was he thinking back in 2003, but I won’t do that. I think in many ways I wouldn’t be content with interviewing just one person. I’d say that I’d love to have the time and . . . and the resources to pick up a . . . a . . . a . . . a farmer in . . . in a droughts infested part of India who is on the verge of committing suicide as 4,000 farmers have done this last year, because they . . . they felt their life was so hopeless that ending it was the only way out. I’d love to interview a Russian potentate to find out how he feels about his billions and . . . and . . . and what difference he can make to his world with that. I’d like to interview and African potentate who is stashing his millions in Swiss banks, and ask him what he feels about the condition of his people. I’d love to interview a Hollywood star and . . . and see what contribution she thinks her . . . her performances and her lifestyle are making to the . . . make to . . . are making to . . . to change the planet into the . . . into the better place that we all wanna leave behind when we leave it. And so on and so forth. I could give you 10 more examples, but that’s the sort of set of interviews I’d like to do. I think there is no one person on this planet who has all the answers that I’d like to find.
Question: What should we be asking ourselves?
Shashi Tharoor: A question that I feel we should all be asking ourselves is in what way is this planet different for us having been on it? And hopefully different for the better. But if not, just different.
Recorded on: 9/18/07