Shashi Tharoor


Indian Politician and Writer, Diplomat United Nations Under-Secretary-General, twice elected Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Minister of State in the Government of India for External Affairs and Human Resource Development

Author Quotes

United is an aspiration, but don't forget during the Cold War Stalin was a member of the United Nations as the Soviet Union was, as was the U.S. It's a place where countries can get together tend to find common approaches to problems, and work together to solve them. And where they disagree, they probably disagree really under the roof of the United Nations than on the back of it.

Universality of the UN is a worthwhile thing in its own self because it means that every country belongs, feels it has a stake, and participates, rather than going away and finding other methods of conducting international relations.

We all have multiple identities in India; we are all minorities in India. Our heterogeneity is definitional.

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 marvelous 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.

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.

We need to scale up what exists in Africa, in various parts of Asia. There has been remarkable progress in China and that's a reflection of the booming economy there, there's been less of that progress elsewhere.

Western dictionaries define secularism as absence of religion but Indian secularism does not mean irreligiousness. It means profusion of religions.

We've gone from the image of India as land of fakirs lying on beds of nails, and snake charmers with the Indian rope trick, to the image of India as a land of mathematical geniuses, computer wizards, software gurus.

What economic liberalization needs, if it is to succeed , is a general acceptance that reforms are for the general good, that they might seem to help some more than others, but that in the long run everyone will benefit from them. Such attitude is far from being realized.

They tell me India is an underdeveloped country. They attend seminars, appear on television, even come to see me, creasing their eight-hundred-rupee suits and clutching their moulded plastic briefcases, to announce in tones of infinite understanding that India has yet to develop. Stuff and nonsense, of course.

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.

This is my story of the India I know, with its biases, selections, omissions, distortions, all mine.... Every Indian must forever carry with him, in his head and heart, his own history of India.

When I grew up in India, telephones were a rarity. In fact, they were so rare that elected members of Parliament had the right to allocate 15 telephone lines as a favor to those they deemed worthy. If you were lucky enough to be a wealthy businessman or an influential journalist, or a doctor or something, you might have a telephone.

This week's summit will be the single largest gathering of world leaders in human history. If world leaders rise to their responsibilities, the rebirth and renewal of the UN will be at hand. With its renewal, we will also renew our hope for a fairer and safer world.

Whereas China has set about systematically striving for Olympic success since it re-entered global competition after years of isolation, India has remained complacent about its lack of sporting prowess.

Though the euphoria surrounding Barack Obama's election last week as President-elect has not yet begun to subside, it is already time to recognise that the most important challenge facing the next U.S. president is to restore America's standing in the eyes of the world.

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.

Told the kids education wasn't just exams; it was what's left behind in their minds when they've forgotten what they learned for the exam!

Ultimately, what matters in determining the validity of a nation is the will of its inhabitants to live and strive together.

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.

There is not a thing as the wrong place, or the wrong time. We are where we are at the only time we have. Perhaps it's where we're meant to be.

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.

There was a time when bright people had few prospects for higher education and good jobs here. But that is changing. India is no longer seen as an undesirable place to work or pursue research.

There?s no longer a superpower standoff. But there are real problems that divide countries around the world. And the UN is still the place where we can get together and try and discuss them

These are the kind of fellows who couldn?t tell their kundalini from a decomposing earthworm, and I don?t hesitate to tell them so. I tell them they have no knowledge of history and even less of their own heritage. I tell them that if they would only read the Mahabarata and the Ramayana, study the Golden Ages of the Mauryas and the Guptas and even of those Muslim chaps the Mughals, they would realize that India in not an underdeveloped country but a highly developed country in an advanced stage of decay.

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Indian Politician and Writer, Diplomat United Nations Under-Secretary-General, twice elected Member of Parliament from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Minister of State in the Government of India for External Affairs and Human Resource Development