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Kumar Padmanabha Sivasankara Menon CIE ICS (October 18, 1898 – November 22, 1982), usually known as K. P. S. Menon, was a diplomat and diarist, a career member of the Indian Civil Service. He was appointed independent India’s first Foreign Secretary, serving from 1948 to 1952. His long tenure makes him one of the central figures of Indian policy. His diaries are a source of great value and give a sharp sense of the man and his life.He was Dewan(Prime Minister) of Bharatpur State, Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union from 1952 to 1961, and finally Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. In 1948, preceding events of the Korean War, the United Nations appointed him the Chairman of the UN Commission on Korea (UNCOK).

Menon’s overland trip from Delhi to Chungking across the Himalayas, the Karakorams and the Pamirs during the Second World War was recorded in his book Delhi-Chungking: A Travel Diary (1947). He was the first member of Indian origin in the political service when he joined in 1921 and was a signatory on behalf of India at the formation of the United Nations. He was a member of the Royal Central Asian Society.

K. P. S. Menon was born in Travancore, India, in 1898 in a distinguished aristocratic family. His father, Kumara Menon, was a lawyerfrom Ottapalam. His mother, Janaki Amma, came from Vellayani in Travancore, and was a niece of Kesava Pillai of Kandamath and cousin of Neyyattinkara N. K. Padmanabha Pillai. Upon her marriage to Kumara Menon, in a previously unprecedented manner (see matrilineality in Kerala society), she moved to Kottayam to set up house with Kumara Menon who himself had moved away from his family in Ottapalam.The children were also given titles from their father’s side and not from the mother’s side. He attended Madras University and then Christ Church, University of Oxford,where he was a contemporary of the future Prime Minister Anthony Eden and served as co-officers of the Asiatic Society. He served as the president of the Oxford Majlis Asian Society.

In 1922, Menon secured the first rank in the combined Civil Services Examination and joined the ICS.He served as Sub Collector of Tirupattur, Vellore District, then as District Magistrate in Trichy, Agent of the Government of India in the North West Frontier Province and Ceylon, then as Resident General of India in Hyderabad State. In 1934, he was sent as Crown Representative to investigate the state of Indians in Zanzibar, Kenya and Uganda. As Dewan of Bharatpur State, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire in the New Year Honours of 1943. After independence, he was India’s first Foreign Secretary from 1948 to 1952, then Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union, Hungary and Poland from 1952 to 1961 and Ambassador to China.

Menon married Saraswathi Amma, the daughter of Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair.His son K P S Menon, Jr served as envoy to China and his maternal grandson Shivshankar Menon was the National Security Advisor of India, representing the third generation of Indian Civil Servants from the same family.

Menon was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1958 and the Lenin Peace Prize in 1979.

Menon was a diarist and the author of over a dozen books on travel and diplomacy in Asia, and a two-part autobiography called Many Worlds and Many Worlds Revisited. His lectures were very popular and one commentator described him speaking as “a grand old lion, benevolent and wise”.