27 October: Remembering K R Narayanan on his Birth Anniversary
K R Narayanan (27 October 1920 – 9 November 2005) was an Indian statesman, diplomat, academic, and politician who served as the 10th President of India from 1997 to 2002 and the 9th Vice President of India from 1992 to 1997.
K R Narayanan was born on 27 October 1920, in Kerala, India. He went to schools in Uzhavoor, often with much difficulty, because his family couldn’t afford even the modest fees. He completed his matriculation from St. Mary’s High School, Kuravilangad, in 1936–37. A brilliant student, he obtained his B.A. (Honours) and M.A. in English literature from the University of Travancore (1940–43), standing first in the university.
He worked as a journalist for the Hindu (1944–45) and the Times of India (1945) after graduating from the University of Travancore. After winning another scholarship, he went to the London School of Economics. Narayanan also worked for Social Welfare Weekly while in England.
Soon after he returned to India in 1948, Narayanan joined the foreign service, despite opposition from the upper castes. While a diplomat (1949-83), he served in many countries but was particularly effective in China (1976-78), where he helped mend relations after a 15-year rift. He was also ambassador to the United States (1980–83), during strained relations. A year later, Narayanan became vice-chancellor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1979.
He wrote several books on Indian politics and international relations, including India and America: Essays in Understanding (1984) and Non-Alignment in Contemporary International Relations (1981).
Narayanan got involved in politics in 1984. After serving in parliament as a cabinet minister for five years, he was named vice president in 1992. In 1997 he was elected president of India, winning 95 percent of the votes of mainly upper-caste lawmakers. His goal was also to end violence and corruption and improve international relations. He left office in 2002 and was replaced by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
K R Narayanan died on 9 November 2005, in Delhi, India.