When dad mentioned that we would be travelling to Delhi over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think, man wouldn’t it be cool if I could meet Shashi Tharoor while we were there. As we were driving from Delhi Airport to the Taj Mansingh, our host pointed to a tall compound wall that went on for miles. “That’s where all of India’s MP’s stay,” he said. So that’s where Shashi stays, I whispered to myself. But these were just stray random thoughts. I am sure flights to Mumbai are full of optimistic teenagers/tourists hoping that they would bump into Shahrukh Khan, but nobody really actually meets King Khan. I’m hardly a teenager and Sashi’s couldn’t really pass for a Bollywood star, but it really felt like that when I thought I saw him across the gym of the Taj Mansingh. I call the gym instructor over and ask him, “Buddy, who’s that guy?” “He, He’s Shashi Tharoor.” The next 15 to 20 minutes of my life were one that I would replay in my head again and again. I dash to the changing room, grab my mobile camera and catch Shashi just in the middle of a phone call. I had 30 seconds to grab his attention and convince him for a pic and had no idea how I’d do it. The next second after he disconnects his call, I say, “Shashi, I really have to shake your hand. I follow your tweets, have read your articles and books, really enjoyed your speeches…” “O thank you, he replied.” A little chit-chat later, he agreed for a pic and it was all over. The euphoria’s dying down now, but boy was I on a high while it lasted.
I first heard about Shashi Tharoor not too long ago. It was a schoolboy dream, to be the first Indian UN Secretary General (sad, but true). When I heard that another Indian named Shashi Tharoor was nominated for the post in 2006, my curiosity naturally piqued (and jealousy aroused) . Following his excellent speech on Restoring America’s Image Around the World my interest in him grew and when I learnt that he’s standing for office in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, I developed a deep respect for the man. After all, why would anybody want to enter Indian Politics? Specially a man of Sashi’s stature and repute. Indian Politicians have always been associated with selfish interest, roguery and corruption. Let’s face it, Politics is a dirty four letter word. But when the likes of Shashi dip their feet in this quagmire you know that they’ve come with an agenda for change. One finds new-found faith in Lincoln’s words that, “for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader”.
I am not easily excited when it comes to meeting VIPs. But with Shashi it’s different. It’s not the fact that he is MP for the Lok Sabha, I don’t think I’d be too exhilarated if I bumped into Sonia Gandhi. It’s only partially because he’s one of India’s greater intellectuals and of the various books, articles and speeches that he’s written/delivered. But it’s mainly because he stood for elections when he didn’t have to and believes in several values that I hold dear too, including those of Anti-Hindutva and a diverse India. Below is just an excerpt, Shahsi’s views on Hindutva can be read half-way down this interview here:
What is Hindutva and how does it compare to your view of Hinduism?
Hindutva is a political project that seeks to capitalize on the fact that 81% of Indians are Hindus by attempting to mobilize a majority of them in favour of a Hindu chauvinist agenda. A majority of Hindu voters has steadfastly rejected such attempts. And so they should, because Hindutva rests principally on bigotry and intolerance, whereas Hinduism is the most open and tolerant of faiths.
The reduction of non-Hindus to second-class status in their own homeland is therefore unthinkable. It would be a second Partition: and a partition in the Indian soul would be as bad as a partition in the Indian soil.
Now, that takes guts to say in public. Wait-a-go Shashi! Here’s praying that may you have an unending inning in our Public Office and may it be full of positive change for yourself and for our country. Jai-Hind.