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Dr Shashi Tharoor - A Literary Luminary

Updated: Apr 13


In India's intellectual panorama, Shashi Tharoor emerges as a commanding figure, deftly weaving together the strands of literature, politics, and diplomacy. His trajectory isn't scripted in the serene confines of a writer's retreat but plays out on the expansive theatre of international relations, where his eloquence and intellect cast a lasting impression.


Tharoor's story begins in the hallowed halls of academia, where he earned his stripes as a scholar and intellectual luminary. Armed with degrees from the prestigious St. Stephen's College at Delhi University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Tharoor embarked on a journey that would see him become not only a prolific author but also a seasoned diplomat.


His literary repertoire is a testament to the depth of his intellect and the breadth of his interests. Tharoor's debut work, "The Great Indian Novel" (1989), is a tour de force that melds classical Indian mythology with the tumultuous political landscape of modern India. Through this magnum opus, Tharoor skillfully draws parallels between the characters of the Mahabharata and the political leaders of post-independence India, offering readers a rich and thought-provoking narrative that transcends the boundaries of traditional storytelling.


Beyond the realm of fiction, Tharoor's non-fiction works showcase his prowess as a historian and political commentator. "Inglorious Empire" (2017) critically examines the impact of British colonial rule on India, challenging prevailing narratives and presenting a compelling case for reevaluation. Tharoor's meticulous research and eloquent prose combine to create a work that not only informs but also sparks important conversations about the legacy of imperialism.


Tharoor's literary endeavors extend beyond the written word, finding resonance on the global stage. As a former Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations, he brought his erudition and diplomatic finesse to bear on some of the most pressing issues facing the world. His articulate speeches and impassioned advocacy for global cooperation and peace have garnered him respect and admiration on the international diplomatic circuit.


One of Tharoor's most iconic moments came in 2007 when he delivered a speech at the Oxford Union, arguing in favour of the motion "This House Believes That the British Empire Was a Force for Good." While the motion itself might have seemed provocative, Tharoor's eloquence and nuanced arguments left a lasting impression, prompting a revaluation of historical perspectives on colonialism.


Tharoor's foray into politics in India has further enriched the miscellany of his contributions. Serving as a Member of Parliament, his interventions in debates and discussions reflect not only his intellectual acumen but also his commitment to fostering a pluralistic and inclusive India. His efforts to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity, as seen in his role as the driving force behind the restoration of the historic Nalanda University, showcase a vision for a harmonious coexistence of the past and the present.


While Tharoor's political career has been marked by its share of controversies, his resilience and ability to navigate the complex currents of Indian politics have earned him a dedicated following. His tenure as the Minister of State for External Affairs from 2009 to 2010 further solidified his role as a statesman with a keen understanding of India's place in the world.


Tharoor's impact extends beyond the corridors of power and the pages of books. His use of social media, particularly Twitter, has turned him into a digital influencer, where he shares not only his thoughts on politics and international affairs but also his love for language and etymology. The #WordOfTheDay series, where he introduces lesser-known words and their meanings, has become a unique and engaging way for him to connect with a global audience.


In recognition of his contributions, Tharoor has been bestowed with numerous awards and honours. His literary achievements have earned him the Sahitya Akademi Award for his book "Riot: A Love Story" (2001), showcasing his versatility as a writer who can seamlessly transition between genres. The Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honours, was conferred upon him in 2005, recognizing his exemplary service to the nation.


As Shashi Tharoor continues his multifaceted journey, his impact on India's cultural, political, and literary landscapes remains undeniable. His ability to straddle different domains—be it the intricacies of international diplomacy, the nuances of Indian politics, or the realms of literature—speaks to a rare versatility that defines his persona.


In the grand narrative of India's intellectual and political history, Shashi Tharoor stands as a luminary, his words resonating across borders and generations. Through his books, speeches, and diplomatic endeavours, he has not only enriched the discourse on India's past and present but has also become a global ambassador for the power of ideas and the written word. Shashi Tharoor's legacy is not just confined to the ink on the pages of his books; it is an enduring narrative that continues to unfold, inviting readers and admirers to delve deeper into the layers of his intellect and impact.


- Sameer Gudhate
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