From a living in a thatched hut in his childhood to becoming the resident of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Former President of India Dr K.R. Narayanan had a life full of struggles and success stories. His childhood experiences and his close association with Professor Harold Laski at London School of Economics shaped his career to a great extent. By the time he finished his higher education from England, he had already made his name in India’s political circles. Dr Narayanan is widely remembered for taking a stern stance against malpractices in the system, questioning the governments in power and standing up for the rights of Dalits and women.
Dr Narayanan was hailed as ‘the best diplomat of the country’ by the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and it was on Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s request that he joined politics and went on to successfully contest in three general elections in 1984, 1989 and 1991.
Early Life and Education
K.R Narayanan was born on 27 October 1920 to a poor family in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, situated in present-day Kerala and was fourth among his seven siblings. His family did not have the resources to finance his education but he somehow managed to receive his early education from Government Lower Primary School, Kurichithanam after which he was enrolled into Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School at Uzhavoor, in 1931. Despite the financial constraints, he didn’t let his passion for knowledge fade away. He went on to pursue his B.A. and M.A in English Literature from the University of Travancore in 1943 where he topped and became the first Dalit to qualify with first class.
After finishing his studies, from 1944-45 he worked as a journalist with prominent newspapers like The Hindu and The Times of India, during which he also managed to do an interview with Mahatma Gandhi. Soon after, he wanted to go to England to pursue higher education but financial constraints came in his way once again. This time he secured the prestigious Tata Scholarship and he went on to study at the London School of Economics in 1945. There he specialized in Political Science under the tutelage of Prof. Harold Laski, a renowned Political Theorist and Economist who had already been familiarized with Indian Independence Movement by VK Krishna Menon.
This became the turning point in Dr Narayanan’s life. Prof. Laski recommended him to PM Jawaharlal Nehru for a job in the Indian Foreign Services (IFS). After joining in 1949, Dr. Narayanan worked as a diplomat in Rangoon, Tokyo, London, Canberra, and Hanoi apart from being India’s ambassador to Thailand, Turkey and China. He finally retired from IFS in 1978 only to be appointed as Vice-Chancellor to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for a brief period.
In 1980, Dr K.R Narayanan was appointed as India’s ambassador to the US by Indira Gandhi and his contributions were effective in facilitating her visit to the US that played a key role in improving the strained relations between the two countries.
In 1984, Dr K.R Narayanan made his debut in Indian electoral politics on Indira Gandhi’s request. He was elected three consecutive times to the parliament after winning in 1984, 1989, and 1991 from Ottapalam constituency in Kerala. In 1992, his name was proposed by the former Prime Minister V.P. Singh for the office of the Vice President and on 21 August 1992, he was appointed as the ninth Vice President of India. After completing his tenure, on 25 July 1997, he was appointed as the President of India and he became the first Dalit to hold the highest position of the republic.
Dr Narayanan’s life is a great example of how persistence and dedication along with quality education can transform a person and elevate him to the ranks of unmatched excellence. The Indian School of Business and Finance gives students a chance to study the same curriculum as studied by great personalities like Dr B.R Ambedkar and Urjit Patel. All the programmes at ISBF receive academic directions from London School of Economics and the final degree is awarded by University of London. To know more about our programmes click here.