By Kainat Sarfaraz:
The evolution of India has always been a favourite subject among writers. The journey from ‘a land of snake charmers’ to the world’s fastest growing economy has piqued the interest of many. In his book India Shastra, eminent politician and author Shashi Tharoor brings out the picture of contemporary India and its state affairs in a collection of 100 essays. His previous books India: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond and The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone too have traced the various intricacies which make India the country it is.
This book is a must-read for those who want to have an idea of where the political, social, economic and cultural ideologies of India stand today. It gives an insight into the functioning of our democracy and politics. For people who do not like reading non-fiction, this book might just prove to be a welcome change. Neatly segregated into eight categories, the essays featuring in each section are short and crisp. Tharoor has shown us his articulation prowess during his earlier stints as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and also as the former Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. With this book, he proves yet again that his astute understanding of Indian society and politics is commendable.
The flow of the essays is lucid and even the non-newsy people will be able to get a comprehensive idea about the recent happenings in our country. The landslide victory earned by the BJP in 2014 is what probably compels Tharoor to devote a couple of sections to Modi and his government. Many have expressed concerns over the fact that Tharoor’s own political beliefs may colour the tone and tenor of the book. But the author manages to keep away his political biases to some extent. He praises Modi for some of his schemes and policies but has largely been critical about him in the book.
Be it growing communalism, acceptance of UPA-backed economic policies, politicizing the civil services or the removal of UPA-appointed governors, the Congress MP has backed all his accusations against the BJP with facts. Pointing out to the gap between Modi’s sound-bytes and actions, Tharoor has provided several instances in the book that back up his claims. Referring to the change in foreign policy, he points out in one of the essays that these decisions are a result of the idea that, “Where you stand, is where you sit”. One cannot help but agree.
An active participant on Twitter, Tharoor has also made a special mention to the Twitter revolutions. However, conflicting this digital and new-age revolution, is the issue of rampant caste divide. On one hand, we are sending our people to Mars and on the other, women of this country are sometimes still not allowed to go out of their homes after sunset. It is indeed a matter of shame that despite being in the second decade of the 21st century, we are still not providing our children with proper sex education classes.
For all his opinions on all these issues, Shashi Tharoor refrains from turning into a pessimist, and that’s what really lifts the arguments in his book . Like he says, “And yet, India is more than the sum of its contradictions. It may be a country rife with despair and disrepair, but it nonetheless moved a Mughal Emperor to declaim, ‘if on earth there be a paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this…” We just have a lot more to do before it can be anything like paradise for the vast majority of our fellow citizens.”
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