Posted on the Kooler Talk (Web Version) Blog and my Jacob's Blog.
College ragging is much in the news.
The first person who "ragged" me in college was Kamalesh Sharma!
He, along with his friends, Jerry and Chinmoy Banerji, took me, after my very first college dinner, to Kamala Nagar to buy me a masala dosai and a cup of coffee!
I still remember the knock on my darkened college room window on my first night in college. When I opened it, I saw this huge guy, whom I had never met before, telling me to get dressed and accompany three of them for a walk!
During the 10 minute walk to Kamala Nagar they never revealed who they were but asked me probing questions. My heart pounded not knowing where I was being taken! And when they ordered the dosai and coffee, I thought I was being made to pay for their after dinner snack!
It was only after we finished eating they all laughed and introduced themselves as block-mates and friends of my elder brother who had lived in Rudra North (Q Block) during the previous three years!
It was with this friendship and their solid support that I was able to be elected as JCR President the next year, the first second year student to enjoy that honour.
As I watched the tv yesterday, the BREAKING NEWS was that our very own 60/62er Kamalesh Sharma had been elected as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth is the head of the Commonwealth, but it is the secretary general who is responsible for its effective day to day functioning.
The Indian Diplomatic corps and especially our Stephanian alumni scored a major diplomatic success in Kampala, yesterday, when Commonwealth leaders chose the current Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Kamlesh Sharma, as the new secretary general of the 53-nation grouping.
Sharma, 66, was the pick of the Commonwealth when its leaders met at the retreat at Munyonyo.
Outgoing Secretary General Don McKinnon, a former New Zealand foreign minister, announced that Sharma was the unanimous choice of the Commonwealth, a grouping of English speaking countries that works on the principle of consensus.
"I would like to express my gratitude to all the leaders for the responsibility and trust they have given me to carry forward the task of the Commonwealth," said Kamalesh, who will take charge in April 2008. "It is an honour and privilege to serve this great institution."
Kamalesh is one of the few Indians who has won such an honour in a major international body. [Mr. K. M. Philip, my late mother's elder brother, now 95 and still playing golf, father of Stephanian 62er Peter (Tubby) Philip, uncle of 63er myself and 64er Mammen Mathew, was the first Indian who served as the President of the World Alliance of YMCAs (Young Men's Christian Associations)].
Kamalesh has also been India's representative on the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth since 2004. He was the first Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to East Timor in 2002-04 with the rank of Under Secretary General.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was "delighted" by the selection of Kamalesh.
"(Kamalesh's) long record of public service in the international community has been capped by this recognition of his capability and his inclusive vision of the Commonwealth," the prime minister said in a statement.
"I am confident that he will acquit himself well in his higher responsibilities as the first servant of the entire Commonwealth."
Besides doing his English Honours, B. A., and his M. A., from our alma mater, he went to King's College, Cambridge.
Kamalesh has been a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1965 to 2001 and has been India's ambassador five times.
Kamalesh also served as the permanent representative of India to the UN in Geneva where he was spokesman for developing countries in the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad).
Kamalesh later became permanent representative of India to the UN in New York during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations (1996-2001).
I remember that when he was in this post, he was interviewed by the B.B.C. on Kashmir. When I heard this interview, in which he expressed the issue about Kashmir in a crystal clear format, I emailed him. He expressed surprise that someone had actually heard that interview!
An official said that throughout his career Kamalesh had shown a strong commitment to all facets of equitable global relationships, enlightened governance, gender equity and engagement with issues of global regimes involving trade, technology and finance.
Congrats Kamalesh. All Stephanians will be watching your performance in this important post and we know you will do us great credit. The Kooler Talk (Web Version) Blog will be recording your historic tenure.