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Of India’s civil servants, Mani Shankar Aiyar may have arguably had one of the most colourful careers. Known for his lacerating wit and many indiscretions, with a career that has seen great highs and lows, he has been a true maverick.
In this extraordinarily honest memoir, Memoirs of a Maverick, he tells the story of his first fifty years – from his childhood at Dehradun where he was raised by his feisty widowed mother to nearly becoming the president of the Cambridge Union, to working as a young diplomat who strengthened Indo–Pak ties by brilliantly managing India’s first consulate general in Karachi and then going on to work intimately with Rajiv Gandhi in the PMO.
In this session, he discusses with the panel, events from his personal life, about his childhood and college days, of his parents’ troubled marriage and his beloved youngest brother’s suicide, and also about his political career, about the net level of freedom in both India and Pakistan being the same, Saddam Hussein’s government being unusually feminist with a large number of female public servants, and much more!
Mani Shankar Aiyar
Mani Shankar Aiyar was educated at Welham, Doon, St Stephen’s and Cambridge before joining the Indian Foreign Service after a brief entanglement with the Intelligence Bureau. He served for twenty-six years in posts abroad, ranging from Brussels to Hanoi to Baghdad and Karachi, with ambassadors who alternated from being outstanding mentors to nasty sticks-in-the-mud, besides two postings at Headquarters in as many as three different ministries. In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi inducted him into the PMO from where he migrated four years later into politics and Parliament. His special interests include the Panchayati Raj and Pakistan.
Nirupama Menon Rao
Nirupama Rao is a former Indian Foreign Service officer. She retired as Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, the senior most position in the Foreign Service, being the second woman to occupy the post (2009-2011). She was the first woman spokesperson (2001-02) of the Indian foreign office. She served as India’s first woman High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Sri Lanka (2004-2006) and to the People’s Republic of China (2006-2009). She was Ambassador of India to the United States from 2011 to 2013.
In retirement she has been a Senior Visiting Fellow in International and Public Affairs at the Watson Institute at Brown University where she has taught an undergraduate seniors course on “India in the World” and George Ball Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Ambassador Rao was a Fellow at the India-China Institute of The New School, New York in 2016 and a Public Policy Fellow at The Wilson Center, Washington D.C. in 2017.
Ambassador Rao is a Founder-Trustee with her husband, Sudhakar, of The South Asian Symphony Foundation a not-for-profit Trust which is dedicated to promoting mutual understanding in South Asia through the creation of a South Asian Symphony Orchestra.
Her most recent book is ‘The Fractured Himalaya: India Tibet China, 1949 to 1962’, published by Penguin Random House.
Nupur Basu is a senior journalist who has worked in the last four decades in both print and television journalism. A former Senior Editor with New Delhi Television (NDTV) , Nupur has directed several award winning documentaries like Dry Days in Dobbagunta, Michael Jackson Comes to Manikganj, No Country for Young Girls and Velvet Revolution. She has filmed and reported stories extensively in India, Sri Lanka , Pakistan , Bangladesh , Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Uganda. Nupur was a visiting faculty at the J School in Berkeley in 2010 . She has served on various Boards and is a keen observer of both politics and media .