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Shashi Tharoor: Between fiction and nonfiction

  • Published at 10:19 pm November 4th, 2019
Shashi Tharoor

He draws on India’s politics and history in both his fictional and nonfictional writing

Shashi Tharoor stands out as a writer who straddles the realms of fiction and nonfiction with equal grace and fluency. He draws on India’s politics and history in both his fictional and nonfictional writing.

As a fiction writer he rose to prominence after the publication of The Great Indian Novel (1989), which is regarded as a classic and whose silver jubilee edition was brought out by Penguin in 2014. His third fiction, Riot (2001), which has also gone through many reprints and new editions, is an innovatively told story revolving around a riot in India. 

Among his nonfiction books, India: From Midnight to the Millennium, Nehru: The Invention of India, Bookless in Baghdad, The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cellphone, An Era of Darkness and The Hindu Way are most remarkable. 

An author, politician and former international civil servant, Tharoor is currently a third-term Lok Sabha MP representing the Thiruvananthapuram constituency and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs.

An Era of Darkness

This is rather a basic read. Tharoor himself acknowledges the impossibility of condensing a book on colonial history within 300 pages, writing that the purpose of the book is not to provide a chronological history of events in the region, but rather to refute the claim that the British empire was, at the end of the day, a good thing. Starting with a comprehensive overview of the looting of India and the destruction of its industries, the writer reminds us over and over again that British rule began with the pillaging of a land and its people by a giant corporation, and ended with a system of government that treated an entire continent as sub-humans and used a “divide and rule” policy to cling on to power for as long as possible.

The Hindu Way 

This is an excellent introduction to one of the world’s oldest religions. It is derived from his bestselling book Why I am a Hindu, as well as his other writings on Hinduism. It examines the fundamentals and complexities of the religion. It offers a brief look into the belief systems, customs, sects, scriptures, deities, rituals, customs, festivals and philosophies of Hinduism. According to Tharoor, in the twenty-first century, “Hinduism has many of the attributes of a universal religion.” Hinduism, Tharoor seeks to demonstrate, is a religion that is personal, does not require collectivity, allows the believer personal freedom of belief as to the meaning of life, freedom of choosing their own religious practices, values intellect and self-study, imposes no authority, and easily adapts to change.