A pocketful of India
Author: Shashi Tharoor
This book by former under-secretary general of the United Nations and prolific author Shashi Tharoor is a compilation of several of his essays and columns that he wrote in the last decade or so (Tharoor writes for a number of national and international newspapers.)
I, for one, had not read much of him, save for a column here or there. So for me personally, this was an enormously enriching experience with its wealth of knowledge and keen insight on a variety of subjects. It helps that Tharoor is such a P G Wodehouse fan because his writing invariably sparkles with wit and flamboyance. In addition, there's such ease and elegance to Tharoor's writing that anyone with the slightest ardour for the English language will take to his style immediately.
Tharoor demonstrates how intensely protective he is about his roots - and that goes beyond his feelings for India alone. He extols the virtues and spirit of Hinduism and the sense of plurality that it propagates. He adds how fundamentalism that divides people on the basis of religious and other identities, is in itself, against the principle of Hinduism.
He says, "No one identity can ever triumph in India; both the country’s chronic plurality and the logic of the electoral market place make this impossible. India is never truer to itself than while celebrating its own diversity."
Tharoor displays his love for his native land-Kerala, pointing at how the place has shed many of its Labour Union problems --one of its biggest banes in its route to development --- and is being viewed as a hotshot destination by investors. Tharoor constantly points towards the pristine beauty of the land (that attracts foreign investors against over-populated and polluted places like Bangalore or Mumbai) and the fact that it's the only State whose demographics comes closest to that of the US, in terms of education and sex ratio.
The interesting part of Tharoor's writing is that there is not only much insight to be found here, there's also a clear stand that he presents at the end of every essay.
The only places where he stumbles is in his assessment of the Hindi film industry. It’s clear that Tharoor's understanding of the Mumbai film industry is limited and his perception narrow. It's especially difficult to digest what he says about the Big B of Bollywood, " To appreciate Amitabh Bachchan, you have to confuse action with acting and prefer height to depth"
That apart, there's much to reflect and take home from this book. An exceptional guide in the understanding of India and its myriad moods.