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Shashi Tharoor

A philosopher is a lover of wisdom, not of knowledge, which for all its great uses ultimately suffers from the crippling effect of ephemerality. All knowledge is transient, linked to the world around it and subject to change as the world changes, whereas wisdom, true wisdom is eternal, immutable.

Shashi Tharoor (Malayalam: ശശി തരൂര്‍; Born 9 March 1956 in London) was the official candidate of India for the succession to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006, and came a close second out of seven contenders in the race. Tharoor served as the UN Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information between June 2002 and February 2007. He is an author, journalist, and fellow of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Tharoor is an Indian national, from the state of Kerala.

About IndiaEdit

  • India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay. [1]
  • India shaped my mind, anchored my identity, influenced my beliefs, and made me who I am. ... India matters to me and I would like to matter to India. [2]
  • Does NRI (Non-Resident Indian) stand for Not Really Indian or Never Relinquished India? I believe a little of both! [3]
  • What is most important to me is Jawaharlal Nehru's idea of India, India as a pluralist society and polity, an idea which is central to India’s survival, which has held now in the four decades after his death and which is all the more in need of defending. [4]
  • Indian nationalism is the nationalism of an idea, the idea of an ever-ever land, emerging from an ancient civilization, shaped by a shared history, sustained by pluralist democracy. [5]
  • We all have multiple identities in India; we are all minorities in India. Our heterogeneity is definitional. [6]
  • No Indian nationalist leader ever needed to say: We have created India; now all we need to do is to create Indians. [7]
  • In building an Indian nation that takes account of the country's true Hindu heritage, we have to return to the pluralism of the national movement. [8]
  • The memories of the first Independence Day may have faded, but the power of that magical moment must never be forgotten. [8]
  • The only possible idea of India is that of a nation greater than the sum of its parts. [9]
  • The idea of India is not based on language, not on geography, not on ethnicity and not on religion. The idea of India is of one land embracing many. You can be many things and one thing: you can be a good Keralite, a good Muslim and a good Indian all at once. [10]
  • Our founding fathers wrote a constitution for a dream. We have given passports to their ideals. [11]
  • If India had a Latin version of the American motto E Pluribus Unum, it would be E Pluribus Pluribum. [12]
  • If America is a melting pot, then to me India is a thali -- a collection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls. Each may not mix with the next, but they combine on your palate to produce a satisfying repast. [12]
  • The pluralism and the linguistic diversity of India is something of which we can truly be proud. [13]
  • Pluralist India must, by definition, tolerate plural expressions of its many identities. [14]
  • India imposes no procrustean exactions on its citizens: you can be many things and one thing. [15]
  • In India we celebrate the commonality of major differences; we are a land of belonging rather than of blood. [15]
  • Ultimately, what matters in determining the validity of a nation is the will of its inhabitants to live and strive together. [15]
  • The pluralism and the linguistic diversity of India is something of which we can truly be proud. [13]
  • This is my story of the India I know, with its biases, selections, omissions, distortions, all mine.... Every Indian must for ever carry with him, in his head and heart, his own history of India. [16]
  • India has been born and reborn scores of times, and it will be reborn again. India is forever, and India is forever being made. [16]
  • Bureaucracy is simultaneously the most crippling of Indian diseases and the highest of Indian art forms. [16]
  • Like India herself, I am at home in hovels and palaces, Ganapathi, I trundle in bullock-carts and propel myself into space, I read the vedas and quote the laws of cricket. I move to the strains of a morning raga in perfect evening dress. [16]
  • The British had the gall to call Robert Clive 'Clive of India' as if he belonged to the country, when all he really did was to ensure that much of the country belonged to him. [16]
  • How easily we Indians see the several sides to every question! That is what makes us such good bureaucrats, and such poor totalitarians. They say the new international organizations set up by the wonderfully optimistic (if oxymoronic) United Nations are full of highly successful Indian officials with quick, subtle minds and mellifluous tongues, for ever able to understand every global crisis from the point of view of each and every one of the contending parties. That is why they do so well, Ganapathi, in any situation that calls for an instinctive awareness of the subjectivity of truth, the relativity of judgement and the impossibility of action. [16]
  • Dissent, is like a Gurkha’s ‘khukri’ , once it emerges form its sheath it must draw blood before it can be put away again.[16]
  • On Gandhi: Don’t ever forget, that we were not lead by a saint with his head in clouds, but by a master tactician with his feet on the ground.[16]
  • On "Priya Duryodhani": She was a slight frail girl, with a thin tapering face like kernel of a mango and dark-brown eyebrows that nearly joined together over high-ridged nose, giving her to look of a desiccated school teacher at an age when she was barely old enough to enroll at school. She had dark and lustrous eyes. They shone from that finished face like blazing gems on a fading backcloth, flashing, questioning.[16]
  • There is, in short no end to the story of life. There are merely pauses. The end is the arbitrary intervention of the teller, but there can be no finality about the choice. Today’s end is, after all tomorrow’s beginning.[16]
  • The instinctive Indian sense that nothing begins and nothing ends. We are all living in an eternal present in which what was and what will be is contained in what is, or to put it in a more contemporary idiom, that life is a series of sequel to history.[16]
  • A philosopher is a lover of wisdom, not of knowledge, which for all its great uses ultimately suffers from the crippling effect of ephemerality. All knowledge is transient, linked to the world around it and subject to change as the world changes, whereas wisdom, true wisdom is eternal, immutable. To be philosophical one must love wisdom for its own sake, accept its permanent validity and yet its perpetual irrelevance. It is the fate of the wise to understand the process of history and yet never to shape it.[16]
  • We Indians, Arjun, are so good at respecting outward forms while ignoring the substance. We took the forms of parliamentary democracy, preserved them, put them on pedestal and paid them due obeisance. But we ignored the basic fact that parliamentary democracy can only work if those who run it are constantly responsive to needs of the people and if parliamentarians are qualified enough to legislate. Neither condition was fulfilled in India for long. Today most people are simply aware of their own irrelevance to the process. They see themselves standing helplessly on the margins while professional politicians and unprofessional politicians combine to run the country to the ground.[16]
  • We Indians are notoriously good at being resigned to our lot. Our fatalism goes beyond, even if it springs from, the Hindu acceptance of the world as it is ordained to be. I must tell you a little story - a marvellous fable from our puranas that illustrates our resilience and self-absorption in the face of circumstances. A man is pursued by a tiger. He runs fast, but his panting heart tells him that he cannot run much longer. He sees a tree. Relief! He accelerates and gets to it in one last despairing stride. He climbs the tree. The tiger snarls below him, but he feels that he has at last escaped its snapping jaws. But no - what’s this? The branch on which he is sitting is weak. That is not all: wood-mice are gnawing away at it: before long they will eat through it and it will snap and fall. The branch sags down over a well. Aha! Escape! Perhaps our hero can swim ? But the well is dry and there are snakes writhing and hissing on its bed. As the branch bends lower, he perceives a solitary blade of grass on wall of well. On top of the blade of grass gleams a drop of honey. What is our hero to do? What action does our puranic man quintessential Indian, take in the situation? He bends with the branch and licks up the honey.... What did you expect? Some neat solution to the problem? The tiger changes its mind and goes away? Amitabh Bachchan leaps to the rescue? Don’t be silly. One strength of Indian mind is that it knows some problems cannot be resolved and it learns to make best of them. That is the Indian answer to the insuperable difficulty. One does not fight against that by which one is certain to be overwhelmed; but one finds the best way, for oneself, to live with it. This is our national aesthetic. Without it, india as we know it could not survive. [16]
  • Even though India has all the attributes of a great power,its most striking asset is actually its soft power. - Shashi Tharoor at the 2006 Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi.
  • India is more than the sum of its contradictions. Any truism about India can be contradicted with another truism. There is no fixed stereotype. But even thinking about India makes clear the immensity of the nation-building challenge. - Shashi Tharoor at the PANIIT 2006 in Bombay.
  • There is no one way to look at India. There are many Indias. Pluralism is a reality that emerges from the very nature of the country; it is a choice made inevitable by India’s geography and reaffirmed by its history. We are all minorities in India. - Shashi Tharoor at the PANIIT 2006 in Bombay.
  • The first challenge is that we cannot generalise about India. One of the few generalisations that can safely be made about India is that nothing can be taken for granted about the country. - Shashi Tharoor at the PANIIT 2006 in Bombay.

Sathya Sai BabaEdit

  • I was not blinded by faith, but the encounter was indeed astonishing at several levels. In our private talk, Sai Baba uttered insights about my family and myself that he could not possibly have known....He waved his hand in the air and opened his palm. In it nestled a gold ring with nine embedded stones, a navratan. He slipped it on my finger, remarking, "See how well it fits. Even a goldsmith would have needed to measure your finger." [17]
  • "It was as if he had heard what I wanted," she said. But a skilled magician can do that, and it would be wrong to see Sai Baba as a conjurer. He has channeled the hopes and energies of his followers into constructive directions, both spiritual and philanthropic. [17]

Miscellaneous IdeasEdit

  • The British are the only people in history crass enough to have made revolutionaries out of Americans. [16]
  • Basic truth about the colonies, Heaslop. Any time there's trouble, you can put it down to books. Too many of the wrong ideas getting into the heads of the wrong sorts of people. If ever the Empire comes to ruin, Heaslop, mark my words, the British publisher will be to blame. [16]
  • The vehicles of human politics seem to run off course, but the site of the accident turns out to have been the intended destination. [16]
  • On "Priya Duryodhani": She was a slight frail girl, with a thin tapering face like kernel of a mango and dark-brown eyebrows that nearly joined together over high-ridged nose, giving her to look of a desiccated school teacher at an age when she was barely old enough to enroll at school. She had dark and lustrous eyes. They shone from that finished face like blazing gems on a fading backcloth, flashing, questioning.[16]
  • There is, in short no end to the story of life. There are merely pauses. The end is the arbitrary intervention of the teller, but there can be no finality about the choice. Today’s end is, after all tomorrow’s beginning.[16]
  • The instinctive Indian sense that nothing begins and nothing ends. We are all living in an eternal present in which what was and what will be is contained in what is, or to put it in a more contemporary idiom, that life is a series of sequel to history.[16]
  • A philosopher is a lover of wisdom, not of knowledge, which for all its great uses ultimately suffers from the crippling effect of ephemerality. All knowledge is transient linked to the world around it and subject to change as the world changes, whereas wisdom, true wisdom is eternal immutable. To be philosophical one must love wisdom for its own sake, accept its permanent validity and yet its perpetual irrelevance. It is the fate of the wise to understand the process of history and yet never to shape it.[16]
  • Freedom of the press is the mortar that binds together the bricks of democracy -- and it is also the open window embedded in those bricks. -- Speech at the UN's World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2001
  • Of course, we meet to mourn that part of our human family that is missing -- to remember the individuals and tell each other their stories. But we also meet to unearth the lessons we can draw from their lives and their fates.… Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General, at the UN’s Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, 29 January 2007.
  • Just as human beings have an almost infinite power to destroy, they also possess an enormous capacity to learn, to grow and to create. … Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General, at the UN’s Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, 29 January 2007.
  • The UN is the place to draw up blueprints without borders. It is the one indispensable global organisation in our globalizing world. ... Shashi Tharoor, DNA India, November 12, 2005

Conversations with History, Institute of International Studies, UC BerkeleyEdit

  • The Jesuits have developed an interesting vocation of educating the privileged of the third world.
  • I went through a period of schoolboy atheism -- of the kind that comes with the discovery of rationality and goes with the realization of its limitations.
  • I had the misfortune of being good at studies, and I say that without any false modesty. Particularly in the Indian system, those who are good at taking exams tend to do well, doesn’t necessarily imply that they have fine minds.
  • Like many foreign students when they go abroad, I was instantly thrust into a position of having to explain and defend my country. That is a very common predicament.
  • To write fiction you need not just time but a space inside your head -- to create and inhabit an alternative moral universe whose realities have to be consistent in your mind and as real to you as those you dealing with in daily life.
  • The Indian adventure is at its best of people working together, dreaming the same dreams, who don’t look like each other, don’t speak the same language, don’t eat the same kinds of food, don’t dress alike, and don’t have the same color of skin.
  • I make no bones about the fact that India matters to me, and I would like to matter to India.
  • Satire enables you to recast both the great ideas and great stories and great men in a light that is so unfamiliar that immediately provokes a fresh way of looking at them.
  • If I can borrow the wonderful statement of Molière, who said that "Le devoir de la comedie est de corriger les hommes en les divertissant." If I can paraphrase it, "If you want to edify, you have to entertain."

ReferencesEdit

  1. World Policy Journal, "Reflections", Volume XXI, No 2, Summer 2004 Available Online
  2. The Hindu, "The Shashi Tharoor column: A departure, fictionally", Sunday, September 16, 2001 Available Online
  3. Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 27, No. 3, 371-390 (2005)DOI: 10.1177/0163443705051749, © 2005 SAGE Publications, "Creating immigrant identities in cybernetic space: examples from a non-resident Indian website, Available Online
  4. Edited transcript of remarks, 11/13/03 Books for Breakfast, "Nehru: The Invention of India" Available Online
  5. The 125th Anniversary Jubilee Lecture, St. Stephen's College, Delhi, November 12 2005, "India: from Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond" Available Online
  6. The Hindu, "License to Be Himself", April 1, 2001
  7. Rediff News, "Who is an Indian?", Available Online
  8. a b The Hindu, "1947, first-hand ", Sunday, Aug 15, 2004 Available Online
  9. The Hindu, "Strengthening Indianness ", Sunday, Jan 19, 2003, Available Online
  10. Resurgence Magazine, "A Culture Of Diversity", Available Online
  11. The Hindu, "The Shashi Tharoor column: The creation of India ", Sunday, August 19, 2001 , Available Online
  12. a b Book by Shashi Tharoor: "Nehru: The Invention of India", ISBN 155970697X.
  13. a b The Hindu, "Things that happen only in India", Sunday, Aug 13, 2006 Available Online
  14. The Hindu, "After the Dust is Settled", April 15, 2001
  15. a b c The Hindu, "The Shashi Tharoor column: The creation of India", Sunday, August 19, 2001 Available Online
  16. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Book by Shashi Tharoor: "The Great Indian Novel", ISBN 0140120491
  17. a b The Hindu, "Reality - Spiritual and Virtual", Nov 10, 2002 Available Online.