Born On: May 3, 1896
Born In: Panniyankara in Kozhikkode, Kerala
Died On: October 6, 1974
Career: Politician and diplomat
V. K Krishna Menon was considered to be one of the most influential public figure during his career as a diplomat and politician and also, certainly the most reviled, for though he marked his career as a diplomat he was far from being diplomatic and his famous brusque behavior earned him the ire of both the western media and the Indian diplomatic and political elite. But his close friendship with Jawaharlal Nehru ensured that he could tide over his detractors, and when he was made the defense minister he even ruled the country's armed force. As Nehru's pet Rottweiler, he was the most vocal advocate of the Non-Aligned Movement and the harshest critique of the United States. No wonder he was the favorite enemy of the West as he went on supporting the other side at the height of the Cold War. In all this hullabaloo of his domineering character many tend to forget his immense contributions to the nation particularly in the military. Though many blame him for the loss of face in the 1962 Indo-China war, it is his policies that guided the Indian military to the strength it is at present.
Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon was born in Kerala in the then British Malabar in a Vengalil family in 1896 to Komathu Krishna Kurup and Smt Vengalil Lakshmikutty Amma. His father was a wealthy lawyer and the son of the Raja of Kadathanadu. He received his early education from Thalassery Municipal School and Kozhikode Native School. He completed his intermediate from Samuthiri College and received his B.A degree from the Presidency College, Chennai. He then enrolled at the Madras Law College where he became actively involved with Annie Besant and her Home Rule Movement. He also took an active interest in Theosophy. He became a leading member of the 'Brothers of Service' founded by Annie Besant who also helped and encouraged him to travel to England in 1924.
In England, Menon enrolled himself at the London School of Economics as well as the University College from where he received his Master's. Soon after, he received his law degree from Glasgow University. He also started to advocate India's freedom, vociferously and passionately. After completing his education, Menon worked as a journalist. From 1929 to 1947, he worked as a secretary of the India League where he came into contact and became associated with Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1934 he was admitted to the English Bar and joined the Labor Party and was elected the borough councilor of St. Pancras, London and served from 1934 to 1947. Menon was conferred upon with the Freedom of the Borough from St. Pancras, becoming the second person to be so honored. He was instrumental in influencing the Labor Party to send a fact finding mission to India, which was headed by the Labor MP Ellen Wilkinson. Menon served as the secretary and edited the report titled "Conditions in India" based on their findings. During this period, he founded the Penguin and Pelican paperback books with Allen Lane, which would later become Penguin Books, working as one of its editors and also at the Twentieth Century Library.
Menon was appointed the High commissioner to the United Kingdom after the independence of India in 1947. He served in this post till 1952 after which he led the Indian Delegation to the United Nations till 1962. At the United Nations he was noted for his criticisms of the United States and adopted the policy of non-alignment. On 23rd January, 1957 he delivered what is considered to be longest speech ever in the United Nations Security Council, which went on an unprecedented seven hours and forty eight minutes defending India's stand on Kashmir. In 1953, Krishna Menon was elected to the Rajya Sabha and three years later he joined the Union Cabinet albeit as a minister without a portfolio. In 1957, Menon was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bombay and the same year he was appointed the Minister of Defense in the government formed by Jawaharlal Nehru. The reputed Sainik schools were his brainchild, and till date the Sainik School Society runs around 24 schools across India. In 1962, after India's humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese, Menon resigned from his post as Defense Minister. In 1967, he contested for a parliamentary seat but lost. However, he was re-elected 1969 from Midnapore and again in 1971 from Trivandrum.
In October 6, 1974, Menon passed away in Delhi. He was conferred upon with the Padma Vibhushan award thus, becoming the first Malayalee to be so honored. The V.K. Krishna Menon Foundation, based in London was instituted in his memory and till date, works towards the eradication of illiteracy and the promotion of Indian arts and culture.
1896: Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon was born in a Vengalil family.
1924: Moved to England to pursue higher education.
1934: Was admitted to the English Bar.
1947: Was appointed the High commissioner to the United Kingdom.
1952: Was appointed India's representative to the United Nations.
1953: Was elected to the Rajya Sabha.
1956: Appointed a minister in the government.
1957: Nehru appointed him the Defense Minister of India.
1962: Resigned as Defense Minister after India's humiliating defeat against China.
1974: Breathed his last