The Indian politician and writer was one of the crowd-pullers at the inaugural JLF at New York.
One of the crowd-pullers at the inaugural JLF at New York, an offshoot of the iconic Jaipur Literary Festival, held on September 19 and 20, was Shashi Tharoor. The Indian lawmaker and writer — whose two most recent works, Inglorious Empire (2016) and Why I Am A Hindu (2018) have been critically acclaimed — was in his element, talking, discussing and participating in various events of the festival.
With his charming demeanor and way with words, Tharoor has earned a place for himself in the literary world, especially in Indian writing in English. Despite surrounded by constant controversies in his personal and political life, the former diplomat has managed to write a new book every few years.
I have interviewed Tharoor a few times, the first of which was during his UN days, at his office, overlooking the Hudson River. He told me in that interview that it was the view and the writing that kept him going in the job. In New York, he said that he loved his job as a Member of Parliament from Kerala, and, again, it is his writing that keeps him going.
Every time, I heard him speak at different venues about his books, he always has something to new to add. Tharoor, who has lived a great deal of his life outside of India, considers himself an Indian.
Speaking about his latest book, Why I am a Hindu, he called Hinduism the religion most suited for the modern era.
“A religion that is prepared to question the omniscience of the creator is, to my mind, a wonderful faith for a modern or post-modern sensibility,” he said, adding, “since no one knows what God looks like, one is free to imagine God as one likes in Hinduism.”
Tharoor, a “worshiping” and “believing Hindu,” said he finds a lot of answers in Bhagavad Gita, which teaches us, one must do what one must do, as one’s dharma, without any expectation of reward.
Tharoor said he had to give up a lot of things, like friends, entertainment, and of course, “sleep,” to devote weekends, holidays and evenings to my writing.
A fan of Bollywood movies, Tharoor said he grew up with films like Aaradhana, Anand and Zanjeer. Among more recent films, he liked Lage Raho Munabhai and Lagaan.