Interviewing the “Indian Indian”, Dr. Shashi Tharoor

One of the most charismatic personalities on the face of the Indian political scene today is Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State in External Affairs Ministry. His tweeting habits and the occasional ‘misquoted’ comments has made him a media darling. Me and my friend Pratyush had the opportunity to interview him before he became a representative in the Indian Parliament. The interview was taken in a picturesque palace-turned-hotel in the beautiful city of Udaipur earlier this year in February and has been published in my magazine, my final year project of college. Making this interview public for the first time- the complete transcript. Dr. Shashi Tharoor at his witty and intellectual best before he became a rage in India.

Q. A student journalist, a writer, a diplomat all by the age of 22. How did you manage to put on such an assortment of hats, what was your drive?

A. I am not sure if anybody can fully explain what drives them, it comes from within. I remembers years ago while reading about George Bernard Shaw, he was asked “what makes you write” he said “I write for the same reason that a cow gives milk.” In other words, it inside you it going to come out. And its self-evident. So a part of me says, that I do the things that I want to do because I cant help doing it . Now that’s not the whole of it obviously, various other things come into it. You have to have a talent for something, you have to have opportunities to show that talent and that talent in turn has to be recognized. I am not so immodest as to suggest that a certain amount luck doesn’t come into all of this as well. But the opportunity was that my first story was published when I was 10 years old, a short story by me was first published. There is nothing more exciting and even addictive than seeing your name in print the first time, you keep wanting it to happen. Its like a first kiss. It carried on and I did that right throughout my school days. It also definitely helped that I was an asthmatic child and so the number of opportunities to go out and play with friends, which all of us did as kids, were often curtailed by my inability to breathe properly and keep up, as I had to sit down and huff  every few minutes. So you know, that too becomes a factor. But anyway, I saw my name published and it seemed I was getting a certain amount of appreciation in what I was doing so I kept going with that. On the other stuff, the studies front, that was because as a child of middle class parents, parents said, you its great, you have a talent you must write. But, it better be a hobby, no-one makes a living by writing. So they told me to go take exams and sorts and have a normal career, whatever that maybe. The would be happy if I was a doctor or an engineer, or an IAS or IFS. But the whole ambition was that make sure by conventional yard sticks you do that. So, come home finish your homework and ten if you get time you can write, so that was always the case. Because, unfortunately the reality of living in a high zone with a salaried father and a low income, cushioned to rest upon as it were, I naturally always saw that writing was something in addition to, and not in lieu of my studies. That’s why  the both tracks were together.

Q. So it was a hobby, and you had a career in it, as well as somewhere else too?

A. I was always good in taking exams. I mean there are many many people  who are solid in a number of areas but who didn’t have this talent. Einstein dropped out of school for that sake, he failed in his school. I on the other hand would not claim to ever be an Einstein. But I can come first in some of the things and can come first in class. In our country that opens doors. I got highest rank in school throughout, and when I left school I could join any college I wanted to, as they were happy to have me. St. Stephen’s did not even take my interview, because my marks were so high. So, I basically went through that kind of a track and then carried on in the academic stream and then to a conventional profession. I never gave up, the feeling that evenings, weekend whenever I can get time, I used to write. Again no TV, no computers no distractions, that also helped.

Q. Since you have spoken about the Indian education system, there are a lot of products of the Indian institutes of higher education, who have made their name globally, but somehow the institutes themselves  are not that renowned globally. Why is that?

A. Well, there are a number of factors. Lets take Stephens, I am convinced that it is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the world. But you don’t have a way of getting international recognit