Sunday, September 3, 2006 (Ottapalam):
Shiv Shankar Menon's appointment as India's new foreign secretary is just the latest feather in the cap of the Menon family.
The Menons can now safely claim to be India's first family when it comes to the foreign service with three generations of foreign secretaries.
Co-incidentally, they have all been ambassadors to China as well.
October 1 will be a special day for the family in Ottapalam because that's when Shiv Shankar Menon will take over as India's foreign secretary – a post held earlier by his grandfather, uncle and father-in-law.
Clearly, the family members and people of Ottapalam have a lot of hope and expectations from him.
"He has got a very good reputation. He is also very considerate in dealing with others. Yet, he is very strong, he is principled and he'll take a stand," said Malini Menon, Shiv Shankar Menon's Mother.
The new foreign secretary's grandfather KPS Menon Senior was handpicked by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to become India's first foreign secretary in 1948.
KPS Menon Junior, Shiv Shankar's uncle who retired as foreign secretary in 1989, says KPS Senior was their inspiration.
"We got very interested in international affairs and history, which was also Shiv Shankar's subject in college. I think we derived interest from my father KPS Menon because of his great interest in history and international affairs," he said.
However, the foreign service no matter how exciting has its drawbacks.
KPS Menon Junior couldn't join school till the age of 11 because of KPS Senior's frequent postings.
As foreign secretary, he himself visited Kerala only once because getting leave was tough.
And though he's settled in Thiruvananthapuram, he has problems dealing with Malayalam. But he expects the world from Shiv Shankar.
"I think his knowledge of international affairs is great, it has been his subject of study and his strength. He knows Chinese fluently – both the language and literature. He can take things in his stride. He does not get unnecessarily excited. Both these character traits will help him," said KPS Menon Junior.
And with Shyam Saran being appointed as special envoy for the Indo-US nuclear deal, the duo is expected to make a great team.