To be honest, before April 12, 2018, all I knew or bothered to know about Shashi Tharoor was that he’s a politician whose English diction is said to be better than that of the British themselves, and that there was a controversy about his third wife. It was on this day that I was going to be revolutionised!
Shashi Tharoor was supposed to be in Raipur (Chhattisgarh) to deliver a speech for the All India Professionals’ Congress in Chhattisgarh. And I must count our lucky stars – for 20 of us, students of Rajkumar College, Raipur, got the opportunity to attend this conference as volunteers. And after that, we got to interact with him personally. And trust me when I say he is beautiful!
As an orator, as a person speaking for what he truly believes in, he really touched the intellectual side of me. Every word of his boasted of great thought and meaning. He told us, “Even if you say you are not interested in politics, politics is interested in you.” Well, that got me interested all right! What followed was days of researching and watching all the videos and interviews of Tharoor that I could find. My exasperated sister said, “You seem to be suffering from Tharoorism.” That is when I realised that ‘Tharoorism’ is not just a ‘fandom’ thing. It actually is a revolution.
To understand this, we must delve into the mind of Shashi Tharoor and try to broaden our own minds. I am sure most of you do not support discrimination on the basis of caste and religion. But, let’s say you were to adopt a child. Ask yourselves – if you are a Hindu, would you adopt a Muslim child? Or a child whose parents are Dalits? I very much doubt that the answer will be yes. Also, how many of us have actually gone to places of worship other than those of the religion we belong to, with the intent of praying? We will not openly discriminate, but neither will we give them a place in our hearts.
There is a very fine line between these two and Tharoor, inspired by Swami Vivekananda, has termed them as ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’. He says that ‘tolerance’ is a virtue, no doubt. But it is a very patronising virtue which says, “I am right, you are an error. But I will magnanimously indulge you in the right to be wrong.” On the other hand, acceptance entails saying, “I believe I have the truth, you believe you have the truth. I will respect your truth, please respect my truth.”
Tolerance is what most of us practise – and we need to understand that it has too many limits. It will never make other people feel a sense of belonging and respect. Acceptance, on the other hand, is a beautiful concept – for it makes you realise that it is not wrong to be different. It makes you love other people without judging them for who they are, in terms of caste or religion, because we have to face them. These are barriers we have created – and they have certainly not helped us in any way.
What I am going to write next is politically inspired by the Congress’ ideology. Shashi Tharoor has said that when he was to join Indian politics, he wanted to make a difference – and that he was approached by the Congress and the BJP. He turned down the BJP’s advances because he didn’t think that it was the government’s business to look into the public’s fridges to see what they are eating, or into their bedrooms to see who they are sleeping with, or what they are wearing. It was the Congress’ ideology which appealed to him the most, because ever since the birth of independent India, the Congress has never wavered in its mission of uniting Indian people.
It is possible for us to live together in harmony despite the differences of caste, religion, gender, colour, cuisine, custom and costume. We don’t have to agree all the time as long as we agree on the ground rules of how to disagree!
And that is the only thing which has proved many historians of the 20th century wrong. They believed that this land of vast cultural diversity and inhibitions would never be able to survive and that it would soon disintegrate. I doubt whether we would remain as whole as we do today, if the BJP had come to power after independence. For example, regarding the Ayodhya issue, what are we fighting for? Where to construct a structure of bricks and stones, and whether to put a crescent or a deity inside! And in the process of “reclaiming” our religious place, we are very religiously of course taking human lives.
Just like Dr Tharoor has encouraged in his book, “Why I Am A Hindu”, we need to stop the adulteration of Hinduism which has been increasing manifold. In the past few years, we can see that Hindutva has only led to communal violence. I think we should go back and take lessons from the saying in the Hindu scripture – “Atithi Devo Bhava” which roughly translates into “The guest is the equivalent of God.” If the people of our society have difficulty in accepting others and use violence against them in the name of Hindutva, this here is exactly what the scriptures say! This is what they should follow.
The Muslims, Christians and those from other communities are but permanent Indian guests – and this house, this nation, belongs to them as much as it does to the Hindus, in fact more so, if you go by the saying. All these (and many more) are the reasons why I believe that if everyone tries to think like Shashi Tharoor and inculcate even a fraction of his ideas, a difference for the better is bound to be made. Nobody can stop that from happening!