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Tufts E-News --A Novel Career

Tufts E-News --A Novel CareerBoth a top United Nations official and a renowned author, Tufts graduate Shashi Tharoor is taking an important role in the U.N.’s attempt to help rebuild Iraq. New York City.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.11.03] In a recent interview with Thailand's The Nation, Shashi Tharoor said, "I always try to get 24 hours out of every day." Considering the undertakings of the Tufts graduate, that is no overstatement. A United Nations undersecretary general - and part of Secretary General Kofi Annan's close circle of advisors - Tharoor is also one of India's most respected authors. But the award-winning novelist and senior U.N. official - who has been a key spokesman on the U.N.'s role in Iraq's post-war reconstruction - says that his unique path has led to a rich career.

"When he was just two, Tharoor's parents moved back to their native India from London," reported The Nation. "He was educated there and then later in the U.S., where he earned a Ph.D. at the tender age of 22 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University."

As a young graduate, Tharoor had many paths to choose from, but ultimately opted to enter public service in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Singapore.

"In the end I decided the U.N. would give me the opportunity to get involved in world affairs, which has always been one of my passions," Tharoor told The Nation. "I was unsure at first about joining the U.N., but I'm still there 25 years later!"

The Tufts graduate said he has no regrets over his quarter-century-long career at the U.N. - where he is currently undersecretary general for communications and public information.

"Personally, I think that, of the many kinds of jobs you can find around the world, working for the U.N. has the most direct effect on people's lives," Tharoor told The Nation. "In working with refugees, I saw that direct effect every day. When I put my head down on the pillow at night, I can think about how my work has made a difference in people's lives. It's been an amazing experience."

Most recently, the Tufts graduate's work has focused on the situation in Iraq. Tharoor - who is among top advisors involved in asserting the U.N.'s role in the post-war reconstruction of the country - said that the U.N. plans to take a humanitarian focus in rebuilding the nation.

"It's important that we put the Iraqi people first," Tharoor said in a recent interview on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. "This is their country, it's their oil, and what's essential is we ensure that before too long they're able to determine their own destinies."

The Tufts graduate said that the U.N.'s reconstruction priorities range from basic necessities to implementing major infrastructure. He told The Washington Post that, "a decent system of law enforcement, police recruitment and an impartial judiciary, issuing traffic tickets and having a building code, as well as drawing a constitution, have to go together... with fixing broken benches."

Tharoor said that the U.N. has been working with the United States to bring the proper amount of worldwide aid to the war-torn nation.

"We will do what we are asked to do," Tharoor told the Post. "We are very concerned about leaving the Iraqis in the lurch. It is not enough to aid Iraqis with their own resources and their own oil. It is important also to bring assistance from the outside."

When Tharoor is not acting as a top official in the world's most crucial political negotiations, he is writing. In fact, the multi-talented Tufts graduate recently finished his eighth book, to be released in India and the U.S. in November.

"Tharoor is probably the only author whose books carry a disclaimer saying the characters' opinions are neither his nor the U.N.'s," reported the Sydney Morning Herald. "Writing is squeezed ‘with extreme difficulty' into evenings and weekend when his is not traveling or bringing U.N. work home."

His books - which include "The Great Indian Novel" and a biography of India's first prime minister - have been so well received that one recent reviewer pondered what Tharoor might accomplish if he didn't have another career at the U.N.

"It's hard for me to contemplate giving up either," Tharoor told the Herald. "Part of my psyche would wither."

For now, the multifaceted Tufts graduate is focusing on the U.N.'s role in bringing a humanitarian solution to the reconstruction of Iraq.

As Tharoor told the Post. "I believe Iraqi people will benefit from our help. The coalition won the war, but we have to make sure the Iraqi people win the peace."

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