Tag Archives: shashi tharoor

How The Hindu Way by Shashi Tharoor repudiates myths built by the perpetrators of Hindutva

Book review by Debraj Mookerjee

PSX_20200210_221602

Title: The Hindu Way – An Introduction to Hinduism
Author: Shashi Tharoor
Publisher: Aleph; 2019

​At sixty-four (though he does not look his age), the last thing you wish to remind readers about Shashi Tharoor, diplomat, litterateur and now politician, is that he was once a prodigy. But indeed, he was. An outstanding achiever in college, he graduated with history in 1975 from St Stephen’s College, Delhi, where he was elected president of the student union, and also helped found the Quiz Club. By 1976, he had an MA in International Relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University in the US. In 1977, he earned a master’s in law and Diplomacy, and in 1978, at age 22, he was awarded a Ph.D. at Tufts. After a three-decade old career with the United Nations, Tharoor decided it was time he tried his hand in politics. At the UN he has played referee; it was time to actually start playing the game by taking to the field. Sought by all political parties, he decided to join the Indian National Congress. He has since won two consecutive terms to the Indian Parliament from his parent state of Kerala.

The Hindu Way, his twenty-first publication, embodies a bit of everything that represents him. It reveals the extent of his scholarship and knowledge, especially on a subject that is difficult and complex and diverse (Hindu philosophy presents deep challenges even to lifelong scholars). It marks out the territory he wishes to reach by way of an international readership that might be interested in discovering the tenets of Hindu thought. And most significantly, it foregrounds Tharoor the politician. More on the third and final assertion later, for that is almost the real story within this story. And nothing​, ​ please​, ​ on the numerous controversies that have underlined his journey through public affairs; this is a book review, not a vanity piece.

Among his numerous nonfictional works, perhaps the most interesting and widely regarded ​is​ the 2016 book that emerged from the 5 million YouTube views his Oxford debate participation of 2015 earned, wherein he tore into the colonial exploitation of India with panache, marshalling facts and subtle arguments to disrobe all pretence that British rule in India might have donned.  An Era of Darkness (2016) published in the UK as Inglorious Empire (2017) solidified an opinion held by many – Tharoor’s years spent with the UN were not wasted; he brings great nuance and arguments into the public sphere with linguistic elegance that is matched by few. In 2018, he published Why I am a Hindu. The Wikipedia entry on the work is spot on, “Tharoor intended the book to be a repudiation of Hindu nationalism, and its rise in Indian society, which relied upon an interpretation of the religion which was markedly different from the one with which he had grown up, and was familiar with. In seeking to address this concern, he wanted to position the debate as one within the Hindu faith, and therefore wrote about his own personal identification with the religion.” Read more

Jaipur Festival: Where flows the love for literature…

Every January, India hosts the largest literary festival in the world — the Jaipur Literary festival. Founded in 2006, it gathers the glitterati of the literati in the Diggi Palace Hotel in the heart of the historical city. The festival directors are writers Namita Gokhale and Willian Dalrymple.

This year, it stretched from 23rd to 27 th January and hosted around 300 writers. Speakers this year include well-known names like Nobel laureate (2019) Abhijit Banerjee, Javed Akhtar, Madhur Jaffrey, Aruna Chakravarti, KR Meera, the controversial Shashi Tharoor, Magsaysay award-winning journalist Ravish Kumar and many more. Authors from other countries included Man International Booker Prize Winner (2019) Jokha Alharthi, Elizabeth Gilbert, Paul Muldoon, Stephen Greenblatt and Christina Lamb. More than 200 sessions stretched across five days with writers from 20 countries and literature in more than 25 languages.

Earlier, it had hosted names like Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and more big names. Subjects like climate change, the water crisis, history, economics, politics, feminism, fiction and non-fiction all came under discussion in these sessions. Even the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz that created such a stir in India was under discussion. Read more

What Writers and Artistes feel about Kashmir in Ten Tweets

 

What are writers and artistes tweeting about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir? What is their attitude to the people in this region?

Rahul Pandita, author and conflict writer from Kashmir, tweeted that “In all, a majority of Kashmiris have no idea what abrogation of article 370 means. Argue with them for a minute and one realises they are totally ignorant. All they know is ‘India will now take away everything.’ From our sources we know NSA(National Security Agency) is aware of it. Big challenge.”

Mirza Waheed, Kashmiri writer and novelist who now lives in London, wrote, “August 11, 2019. Day 7 of Seige of Kashmir. We are not allowed to say Eid Mubarak to our families.” But is it a seige or an attempt to integrate the state into the country?

Vikram Chandra, a commonwealth prize winning American Indian novelist, wrote, “In his Aug 8 speech, PM Narendra Modi did say it was for every Indian to share the concerns of the citizens of J&K. Best way to do that today is to reach out to Kashmiris in other parts of India, spending Eid away from home. Make them feel that they ARE at home.”

Actress Shabana Azmi tweeted “Kashmiri Pandit Youth invite every Kashmiri who has been unable to travel home for Eid for a get together…”

Novelist and essayist Chetan Bhagat has taken a stand where he says, “August 5, 2019. Kashmir is finally free. Free to grow, free to make a future. #Article 370 goes. #OneCountryOneSystem.” And also, “Article 370 never gave Kashmiris freedom. It only created selfish leaders who created a terror filled society and robbed Kashmiri youth of opportunity. It is finally time for it to go. Anyone objects, tell them loudly: One Country, One System.” Read more

Book Excerpt: Why I am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor

Why I am a Hindu

Pages 24-27

…. When Buddhism sought to reform Hinduism, Hinduism turned around and sought to absorb it too, by including the Buddha as a reincarnation of Vishnu and his agnostic teachings as merely a nastika form of the mother faith. As a result Buddhism has hardly any strength or presence in the land of its birth, having been absorbed and overtaken by the religion it sought to challenge. Hinduism could well have tried the same with Christianity and Islam, too, had it been allowed to do so; but these faiths were not interested in being embraced by Hinduism, since they saw themselves as the revealed Truth rather than as one among multiple versions of truth.

Hinduism is also unusual in seeing God, Man and the universe as co-related. As the philosopher Raimon Panikkar has explained, in Hindu thought, God without Man is nothing, literally ‘no-thing’; Man without God is just a ‘thing’, without meaning or larger purpose; and the universe without Man or God is ‘any-thing’, sheer unexisting chaos. In Panikkar’s explanation, nothing separates Man from God; ‘there is neither intermediary nor barrier between them’. So Hindu prayers mix the sacred with the profane: a Hindu can ask God for anything. Among the tens of thousands of sacred verses and hymns in the Hindu scriptures are a merchant’s prayer for wealth, a bankrupt’s plea to the divine to free him of debt, verses extolling the union of a man with a woman, and even the lament of a rueful (and luckless) gambler asking God to help him shake his addiction. Prayer and worship, for the Hindu, are thus not purely spiritual exercises: they enhance the quality of his life in the material world, in the here and now.

 GANESH, MY ISHTA-DEVTA

Hindus are often asked, during certain ritual prayers, to imagine their ishta-devta, their personal God, or rather that way of imagining the abstraction of the Absolute in an anthropomorphic form that most appeals to them. I pick Ganesh, or Ganapathi, as we prefer to call him in the South, myself, not because I believe God looks like Him, but because of the myriad aspects of the godhead, the ones He represents appeal most to me.

Om maha Ganapathe namaha,
sarva vignoba shantaye,
Om Ganeshaya namaha…

Read more

“Books on the Beach” literature festival in November

Thiruvananthapuram, May 16 (PTI) Leading writers and thinkers from across India and abroad will participate in the inaugural edition of ‘Books on the Beach’, a literature festival to be held here in November.

The literature fest, organised by non-profit India Book Foundation under the guidance and patronage of former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor, MP, and supported by Kerala Tourism, will be held at Kovalam from November 10-12.

Besides serving as an annual platform for the best in Indian and world literature, Books on the Beach will over successive editions tap into the city s youthful energy and distinctive charm to promote it as a leading destination for culture and tourism, Tharoor and Dr Venu V, Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, told reporters here today. Read more

Source: India.com

Calcutta Club USA to host Third Annual Sanskriti LitFest and Book Fair on June 10th

ACTON, MA–Calcutta Club USA will host its third annual Sanskriti LitFest and Book Fair on Saturday, June 10th, at Parker Damon Building in Acton MA from 12 PM to 5 PM, the organizers said in a statement.

This novel event in North America, which brings together literature, art, cuisine, thought leadership and family fun within a single venue, has risen in prominence in just three years and attracts the top literati and South Asian authors to participate either in person or over videoconference, the statement said.

Books of prominent Indian sub-continent authors are available for purchase in English, Bengali and Hindi. A key innovation of the book fair is the Authors’ Direct program – the popular platform to reach Boston’s reading community leveraged by over 50 rising authors.

The Keynote Speaker will be the globally renowned Shashi Tharoor, India’s bestselling author, former UN UnderSecretary General and member of parliament, who is traveling to Boston to speak at the Calcutta Club USA book fair. Read more

Source: India New England News

India: Two upcoming festivals in Mumbai to focus on India’s regional literature

By Kaushani Banerjee

While there has been a rapid growth in the sheer number of literary festivals around the country, most of them tend to focus on English literature. International authors are often the star attractions at these events and there is often little or almost no spotlight for regional authors, who are left confined to school textbooks. But two homegrown festivals in the city are slowly working their way towards shifting focus to regional literature. Lit O Fest and Gateway LitFest, both in their third year, have a burgeoning line-up of authors who will engage in talks, panel discussions and book launches.

The Multicultural aspect

Lit O Fest is a not just a literature festival, it’s a multi-cultural event that will be held over two days. The usual panel discussions will be interspersed with dance and music performances. “It is a showcase of Indian culture focusing on arts, music and dance. This year, the festival has adopted a village in Maharashtra called Dahigaon and started a school in it as well. We plan to adopt other villages as well and make them self-sufficient. So it’s not just literature, it’s also literacy in rural India,” says festival director Smita Parikh.

Popular authors such as Anand Neelakantan, Shashi Tharoor, William Dalrymple, Ashwin Sanghi and Shatrujeet Nath will be in attendance. Renowned Hindi authors Kedarnath Singh and Uday Prakash will be felicitated this year at the festival. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times

Apeejay Kolkata literature festival to begin on January 15

The eighth edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival commencing from January 15 would be attended among others by Shashi Tharoor, editor-novelist Raj Kamal Jha, eminent authors Amit Chaudhuri, Shobha De, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, scholar, literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and others.

The four-day festival ending January 18, focussed on the historical spirit of inclusiveness in creativity and culture of the city, would be held at the St Paul’s Cathedral.

Maina Bhagat and Anjum Katyal, directors, Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival said: “The year that has gone by has wounded the psyche of people globally and its impact will be seen in literature across the next few years. AKLF’s 2017 is woven around starting conversations to make the world a more inclusive place.” Highlights of the festival include a two-day Oxford Junior Literary Festival titled “Celebrating Children & Youth” and celebration of Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize in literature. A film will be screened on Mahasweta Devi. Read more

Source: The Asian Age 

Is fiction on the decline? Non-fiction found more takers in 2016

The tastes of the reading public in India seem to growing beyond fiction. In what is being seen as a major evolution in the Indian publishing space, 2016 witnessed a fast and booming shift to memoirs and non-fiction while fiction titles were subdued not only in terms of their numbers but also popularity among readers. Industry insiders say this is a cumulative result of the nation’s changing reading patterns.

Opening the year with a surprise was Anything But Khamosh, the authorised biography of Bollywood icon and politician Shatrughan Sinha, by Bharati Pradhan.

The book, which was launched at the Jaipur Lit Fest towards the end of January, went on to attract readers from all age groups and even the “Bihari Babu” left no stone unturned in its promotions, retracing the many “hurrahs and heartaches” of his life at promotional events. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times

Book Review: An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor

By Abhishek Sikhwal

an-era-of-darkness-the-british-empire-in-india

I have been waiting for a book like An Era of Darkness for quite some time. While much has been written about the British empire and the brutality of colonization, none of those accounts came from an Indian perspective. African-Americans have been able to recount the horrors of slavery through books such as Inhuman Bondage and Many Thousands Gone, but Indians have only been served an ersatz history of the empire by apologists such as Niall Ferguson (Empire) and Lawrence James (The Rise and Fall of the British Empire). In reviewing this book, my slight bias, of which I’m forthcoming, arises squarely from the fact that there hasn’t been anything similar that singularly deals with the Indian experience of colonization.

Tharoor’s book, which took shape after his speech on the subject went viral last year, is an extensive examination of the economic and cultural damage wreaked upon India over the 200 years it was under British rule. In order to establish their dominion, the British dismantled the organic structure of the subcontinent which was always, as the historian Jon Wilson noted, “a society of little societies”.

Tharoor rubbishes the argument that the British were better than the native kings they were supplanting by citing the good governance in kingdoms such as Travancore, Mysore and Oudh. Even the Moghuls, who ruled India for over three centuries, assimilated themselves into the region and the capital extracted under their empire never left the country. The British, however, kept themselves aloof from the customs of the indigenous people and systematically siphoned off the country’s wealth to Britain. According to Tharoor, “By the early 1800s, India had been reduced from a land of artisans, traders, warriors and merchants, functioning in thriving and complex commercial networks, into an agrarian society of peasants and moneylenders”.

While some think that the British should be thanked for introducing the railways, press and parliamentary system into India, Tharoor argues that these were only introduced in order to accelerate the purloin of the country’s riches and to maintain control over the land. He also points out how India is still suffering under a system that was framed with Victorian values. Our bureaucracy, corruption and unfortunate laws pertaining to homosexuality and sedition can all be attributed to the archaic system set up by the British. Even the divide-and-rule policy initially used by the British to keep Indians quarrelling amongst themselves, created a gulf between communities that continues till today.

Read more

« Older Entries