The pleasures of literature, after all, outweigh the joys of journalism.
I enjoyed the witty writing of Shivam Vij (5 books Shashi Tharoor must write after Congress loses 2019), even though I don’t share his premise. No, Congress will not lose in 2019 and I, therefore, don’t expect to have the time to write any new books, let alone five. Still, his ideas are intriguing and deserve to be taken seriously.
After all, what better can a writer ask for than a wish-list from a reader?
The first book Vij suggests I write is Why I Am A Congressman. That’s one I’m happy to do, except it would make for a very short book. In fact, I’ve already written it as an article – What Congress stands for – that I’d urge everyone to read. The fact is, I did have a choice as to what party I should join, and I made up my mind based on what each party that had approached me stands for. I think the Congress party’s values explain why I belong to it.
Next, Vij wants me to profile The Paradoxical Congress President. Again, I’ve beaten him to it, and again, it didn’t take a whole book to do. These words were written in 2015, but they don’t require a whole lot of updating three years later: Rahul the Birthday Boy Lights Congress Candles.
Vij then turns more solemn in asking for India: From Manusmriti To Caste Politics. The vexed issue of caste is indeed a topic that needs to be dealt with, and I have done so in not one but three books, devoting a section in each of them to the issue of caste in Indian society. I’d urge Shivam Vij to look at three different chapters of three different books – India From Midnight to the Millennium, An Era of Darkness and Why I Am a Hindu – if he wants to get a good idea of how I feel about caste.
His next idea is for Inglorious Growth, a book about unemployment in India. Sad truth: It’s an important issue, but it won’t be read. We need to tackle it, however; that’s what governments are for, not just authors.
Finally, he recommends I write Communications Shastra, leveraging my past experience as a UN communicator to “reflect on how the party could fix its communication gap with voters”. Again, I’d quarrel with his premise: I’m not sure there is such a gap. No doubt the forthcoming election results in five states will show us whether he’s right, or I am.
But while we’re about it, how about turning this delightful exercise around, and challenging Shivam Vij and other excellent journalists like him to write five updated books instead, ideally before the BJP loses the 2019 elections, and they become out of date again?
Here are my suggestions [original authors in brackets]:
Pride and Prejudice [Jane Austen]: An analysis of the toxic combination of militaristic jingoism and communal bigotry that animates India’s ruling party, the BJP;
Great Expectations [Charles Dickens]: A description of the false hopes of “achhe din” raised by the soaring rhetoric and eloquent promises of the dream-merchant who talked his way into becoming the Prime Minister;
Money for Nothing [P.G. Wodehouse]: A bestselling romp through the Great Demonetisation Disaster, which deprived honest Indians of their own savings, cost daily-wage workers their earnings, closed small and micro enterprises and set the economy back by 1.5 per cent of GDP, all for – nothing;
Fear of Flying [Erica Jong]: A mystery thriller about how the government of India took a deal to buy 126 Rafale aircraft at Rs 540 crore each and assemble them at Hindustan Aeronautics, and converted it into a scam to buy 36 aircraft at three times the price, fully made in France in fly-away condition, with an offset deal to favour a travel companion of the PM’s and no work for HAL; and
The Grapes of Wrath [John Steinbeck]: How the despair and anger of India’s impoverished farmers and peasants can turn from tragic suicides to electoral wrath against the callous government that has reduced them to this condition.
The pleasures of literature, after all, outweigh the joys of journalism. What better than to combine them? Perhaps Shivam Vij will rise to the task!
Dr Shashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied History at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 18 books, both fiction and non-fiction; his most recent book is The Paradoxical Prime Minister. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor.