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  • Writer's pictureKatherine Abraham

A Letter to My Inspiration, Dr. Shashi Tharoor [On the occasion of his 57th birthday, 9th Mar.2013]

Originally posted -

Every once in a while God sends a miracle as a part of His Divine plan. These miracles may be in the form of an event, a thing or sometimes even a person. Three years ago something akin happened. A gentleman by a chance meeting entered my little world and with his alacrity and subtle advice he made a difference to my life and filled it with positivity towards my career and my country. I am proud to say that I respect and admire this gentleman: ‘you’ and that too only after my own father.

Now I do realise that there are a lot of people in the Real and Virtual world who admire you for your charm and easy grace but I must confess that I have been an admirer of your thoughts, your principles and your firm conviction that India as a country can be a success and you’ve said this without discounting her failures or shortcomings.

Having had the opportunity to hear some wonderful orators who leave you spell- bound with their beautiful and well – articulated speeches, I have observed that very few have the ability to make you think about what has been spoken much after they have parted ways. Still fewer are those whose message radiates positivity at the end of every speech. You quite swiftly and skilfully implant your thoughts in our young minds and make us re- think over issues oft- neglected or unnoticed. I still remember your self- description of being my Virtual Mentor at the BDB book club where I had the privilege of meeting you the first time. I’d be forthright in saying this, believe me, you’ve done a better job than anyone in the real world.

An earnest detailed account of what I’ve learnt from you will take a couple of pages so I’ll just highlight some of the important lessons.

To begin with the very first of my lessons was the art of self- restraint. I must confess I found (and still find) it rather difficult to deal with people on Twitter who not only possess contrariant views but end up dropping to levels I couldn’t fathom. I can’t recall the exact day or date but I do remember you were thoughtful enough to point out to an otherwise over- sensitive young person that it was sometimes better to allow people to say what they wanted because after a while seeing no response the brouhaha would eventually die down. Now you weren’t obligated to say something but it is no wonder that the greatness of a man lies in his small gestures. And that is how I learned to restrain from reacting to trivia even in the real world. I realised that you also practised what you preached; the Quality of a Dignified Silence and the Art of a subtle rebuttal. While most people could quite easily lose their cool, you prefer to give people the proverbial ‘long rope to hang’ and then hand them a more palatable reply, one even your critics and the Opposition can’t help but admire. Initially I simply wondered what the bar of your tolerance level was and it is then that I realised that it is easy to pay back in the same coin but it takes a lot of courage to just stay silent.

When I stumbled into an academic roadblock while applying for my UN Studies, you were gracious enough to refer me to someone who could help immediately only because you were travelling that day. Somehow there was always a knowing that yes I could ask you a question without being turned down or ignored. It’s important to say this because this does happen to young people more than often in the real world. So again you are a class apart even though a national leader you are in the habit of helping people with unparalleled humility, a rarity in the Indian leadership. That was a lesson in itself.

Heartfelt thanks for the change in perception that you have brought with you. Now even though some continue to question your choice of politics over the la dolce vita life of an author, I say thank you for joining Indian Politics. The game may not always be fair but for a fair player there are no losses, initial speed breakers but definitely no dead ends.

In the Pre- Shashi Tharoor era my views on politics looked something like this:

“Politics is a gamble in which rookies try manipulating the microscopic economics and the professionals succeed in manipulating the macroscopic economics such that their luck is never hit. In politics there are no trustworthy, honest and/or good people. There is never a loser.”

The Post – Shashi Tharoor era was a more refined understanding of the field:

“Politics is like a game of chess. The number of permutations and combinations are different and each strategist has a different way of dealing with it. Not all maybe straightforward but not all are crooked either.”

An idea is the offspring of a well- formed mind, the reason why the Ministry of Education has you as one of its heads. The idea of India and Indianness is a doctrine that you quite successfully imbibed into this once cynical young Indian. I now believe that India can with a concerted effort live up to the expectations of its citizens. Undoubtedly all The Tharoor writings have contributed to this thought. Your writings are my window to your alternative world, the world where Shashi Tharoor the pragmatic philosopher resides. From the earliest, India: From Midnight to the Millennium to The Elephant the Tiger and the Cellphone (which I read atleast once everytime my vacations begin) I have realised that the commitment to one’s country is the only way to realise the dream of a Progressive India.

I learnt the importance of maintaining your individuality even if it means displeasing your own. Individuality by itself is celebrated quite often but in politics it becomes difficult with most of the party workers going to any extent to support their party, I am glad that you belong to that class of politicians who believe that one can maintain a dissenting opinion without damaging party allegiances. Yours has never been a commitment of convenience to politics a pertinent principle that a young person like me could cherish.

Now my interactions with you may have reduced considerably (Not counting Retweets which are reactions more than interactions; the last I spoke to you was sometime in October!) thanks to your welcome elevation to the Ministry but I have still gained some wisdom by simply reading up on your tweets and articles about your work at Thiruvananthapuram and Delhi.

Of course I cannot but help ponder who the greater loser was. Was it India for not having you for the 30 odd years you spent relentlessly working away in the United Nations or was the UN a greater loser to have lost a person who would have been perhaps the world’s most loved and cherished leader as the Secretary General? For what it’s worth I am glad that India has you now.

I don’t know what the future holds for you, as I can safely assume you don’t either but of one thing I am certain, I will always take pride in saying this without inhibitions, fear or favour that I have had the privilege of interacting and getting to know the man whom History will record as a world leader who left his footprints where he went, one who represented India, lead India and one who never gave up on the Idea of India!

As the world celebrates your birthday, this is my way of saying Thank you to the person I have for the past three years looked up to as a Mentor, Teacher and Guide.

Sir, Wish you a very Happy birthday and may all the coming birthdays find you motivating and encouraging young Indians to surge ahead and never give up on their country.

Look forward to some interactions on Twitter!

Warm Regards and Best wishes,


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Image: Shashi Tharoor. Copyright Protected: Aikaterina Photography

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