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Pavan K. Varma

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The Renaissance Man

Pavan K Varma’s career will remind you less of the prosaic 21st century emissary and more that of the polymath diplomats of more genteel times. A member of the Indian Foreign Service, he has served in Moscow, in New York at the Indian Mission to the United Nations, in London, where he was Director of the Nehru Centre, and as India’s High Commissioner in Cyprus. 58-year-old Varma is presently India’s Ambassador in Bhutan. The average Indian knows Varma better in his capacity as an author of astonishing range. His work includes a critically acclaimed biography of Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, a genre-bending Book of Krishna, a best-selling and much-translated examination of the Indian middle class, an epic poem on two central characters of the Mahabharata — Yudhishtir and Draupadi, as well as translations of poetry by Gulzar and Kaifi Azmi. He is also author of a witty adaptation of Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra; Kama Sutra: The Art of Making Love to a Woman and editor of an anthology of ancient erotic literature. As a reviewer pointed out, he is not just concerned with the diplomatic imperative of projecting the country in a good light; he is as interested in the dialogue within India.

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