Speaker: Ambassador Pavan . K . Varma
Writer-diplomat Pavan K. Varma is a graduate in History from St. Stephen’s College (securing the first position in the College), after which he took a degree in Law from the University of Delhi. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1976. He has been Press Secretary to the President of India, the Spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, Joint Secretary for Africa, High Commissioner for India in Cyprus, Director of the Nehru Centre in London, Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi, and Ambassador of India to Bhutan.
A writer of depth and insight, he has written over a dozen bestselling, books including the highly successful Krishna: The Playful Divine (Penguin) on India’s most popular deity, the critically applauded biography of the Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, Ghalib: The Man, The Times (Penguin), and the Havelis of Old Delhi. His first book on a contemporary subject was the path breaking The Great Indian Middle Class (Penguin) (published also in French), followed by the astoundingly successful Being Indian: The Truth About Why the 21st Century Will Be India’s (Viking/Penguin 2004). Being Indian was described by The Economist as “one of the most subtle recent attempts to analyse the continent-sized mosaic of India and simplify it for the general reader.” It was published by Random House, in the United Kingdom, as Being Indian: Inside the Real India in March 2005. The Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian translations of this book were very well received. Another work is a witty adaptation of Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra, which was published early in 2007 by Roli Books and has been translated into French and German.
Mr. Varma has also translated the poetry of Kaifi Azmi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Gulzar (four volumes), all published by Penguin.
His book titled: Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and
Identity (Penguin-Allen Lane) was launched in February, 2010 and deals with the pivotal issues of culture and identity for postcolonial societies. A Hindi and a French edition has been published.
Mr. Varma’s first work of fiction When Loss is Gain was launched in January 2012 by Aleph to much critical acclaim. It is now to be made into a Bollywood film. Gulzar’s translation of Mr. Varma’s epic poem Yudhister & Draupadi (alongwith the published original in English) was released in October-November 2013 by Penguin. Yudhister and Draupadi has now been adapted into a Play –‘Paansa’- written by Gulzar, with extensive performances both in India and abroad. Mr. Varma’s book Chanakya’s New Manifesto: To Resolve the Crisis within India was launched by Aleph in January 2013. His latest book, The New Indian Middle Class: The Challenge of 2014 and Beyond, was published by Harper-Collins in 2014.
Mr. Varma’s new book, ‘Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker’ (Westland-Amazon), was launched in April, 2018, with the presentation of the first copy to the Hon’ble President of India. The book has also been published in Hindi, and Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati translations will be out shortly.
Mr. Varma was conferred an Honorary Doctoral Degree for his contribution to the fields of diplomacy, literature, culture and aesthetics by the University of Indianapolis in 2005. Mr. Varma was also awarded by His Majesty the King of Bhutan, the Druk Thuksey Award, Bhutan’s highest civilian Award. He is the only serving Indian Ambassador in Bhutan to have received this Award. Mr Varma has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award by his school, St Xavier’s Delhi, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award by St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi.
A widely admired public speaker and television commentator, Pavan K. Varma’s columns appear regularly in The Times of India, The Asian Age and several other leading publications. Mr Varma was till 1st January, 2013 the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, after which he took premature retirement from service. In the same month, Mr Varma joined as Adviser (Culture) to the Chief Minister of Bihar, with the rank of Cabinet Minister. With effect from June, 2014 he was a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) until July 2016. He was a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, Committee on Government Assurances and Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. He was also been nominated to the Samsad (Court) of the Visva Bharati University, West Bengal, and the Court of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is currently the National General Secretary and National Spokesman of the Janata Dal (United).