Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rendez-vous with Dr. Shashi Tharoor...


If someone told me that within a year of meeting My Mentor, I’d have the privilege of interviewing him one- on-one I’d probably have laughed. But as they say, Miracles happen! This blog though is not written for ‘Tharoorians’ but for those critics who have been raving and ranting that India lacks good leaders.

The first and perhaps the only recurring question that I have been hearing ever since Dr. Tharoor agreed to come over to the Adventist Media Center (AMC) in Pune was how did a Member of Parliament, (a V.V.I.P in colloquial English) agree to a college student’s request to come over and grace the occasion. After all, I wasn’t a V.I.P’s daughter, from an influential business family or a relative. This sad misconception that most people are afflicted with comes from the belligerent media portraying only the negative aspects of politics and politicians.

When the AMC approached me to conduct the inaugural event for them, I readily consented. Now the Adventists are actually taking baby steps in the field of broadcast media. They were taking a step forward to be a part of India’s ecumenical whole rather than restrict themselves to only religious programs. As a free- thinker myself personally I welcomed the decision. When asked as to who would be the perfect guest, I replied Dr. Shashi Tharoor without thinking twice. Most people asked me, ‘Will he come? Would he be free? After all he’s not your regular politician. He’s an international personality you know!’ Of course I knew. But one point they did get right, Dr. Tharoor is definitely ‘not’ your everyday politician and he’s not a political fantasy either.

Although I was given the green signal most of the people were sceptical. Then started a series of email communications to find out when Dr. Tharoor would be available. Soon the program was chalked out and all was working out smoothly. I seemed the only one who was 100% sure that there wouldn’t be any cancellations. The Director however was a little worried till the day of the event obviously because he knew Dr. Tharoor’s importance but didn’t know that he is a man of his word unlike some of the other politicians who cancel last minute.

Dr. Tharoor’s entry in the field of politics comes as a welcome relief for those who believe that Indian polity is beyond redemption. I have been reading the cynical, sometimes aspersive comments, especially on social networking sites that all our Politicians are corrupt & snobbish.

So here’s a glimpse of a busy MP’s life in the little time I was fortunate to share.

11th January, 2012: the lucky day I meet my Mentor Dr. Tharoor again. He’s just finished with a televised interview and a meeting. Surprisingly he doesn’t seem tired at all. My much awaited thirty five minute car ride begins. As we sit in the car, Dr. Tharoor’s Blackberry is out within seconds and he messages rapidly quick to apologise that this is the only time he gets to reply to messages. His dear wife is unwell. We’re both saddened that she isn’t able to make it to the event. He speaks to me on almost everything from politics to family. Silently I’m sitting there drawing parallels between him and some other politicians I’ve read about.

In no way is he the pompous ex- UN official that people talk about. I wonder why people dwell on speculations! He expresses his views frankly and speaks without reservations, never once treating me like I was just another awe-struck college student. He talks about his frustration of a dysfunctional Parliament session, confessing that he hardly finds time to read and is barely managing to write his book only when there’s little time to spare. He wishes he could sleep more (That’s not happening with 20 cups of tea unfortunately.) Soon I find myself discussing a little about the Seventh Day Adventists. Although a vast history, I try and explain a little about the basic principles that our faith is based on. As I finish, he messages again…. It is then that I realise that India has a great multi- tasking politician. I wonder how many of his comrades at the Parliament conscientiously cater to all that needs to be done while sitting miles away from Delhi or their constituency. There may be more but definitely not enough.

As we reach, I introduce Dr. Tharoor to my Dad and the others. The audience is eager to see this handsome, light eyed, simply attired diplomat turned politician grace their program. As much as I want to be there and hear him speak (Dr. Tharoor’s oratory is the one event I wait for with eager anticipation.) I leave to get things ready for the second part of the program.

A little while later my friend comes rushing in to tell me that the gentleman is addressing the crowd. (Gosh! I am jealous!) Fellow ‘Tharoorians’ are enthralled by the way this Master Orator speaks. Finally, I do get a chance to speak to my Mentor, this time as an amateur interviewer. My only thought before the show is I might freak, flip and pass out. But, the minute I start the Interview like the audience I am spell bound by his candour and almost forget that the cameras are around. His answers are honest and unbiased. Soon, the interview draws to a close and the evening comes to an end.

However, for the audience this is their moment. Despite the delay, Dr. Tharoor does not leave a single person unhappy, graciously consenting to photographs and autographs. Everyone is thrilled and later I get to know that he was the only topic for discussion for the rest of the evening. I am a little gloomy that he won’t stay for dinner.

Before he leaves Dr. Tharoor is quick to bless me and that is definitely my most 'Special' moment. That day Dr. Tharoor left me memories that have been engraved as some of my best ever.

I have heard of fussy politicians who carry the ‘I couldn’t care less’ attitude choosing to sit alone least bothered about those around and to one extent it is their presence that mars the name of all others. They prefer to stay as V.I.Ps. Here’s a V.I.P who is far from fussy. After all why would he spare few hours of his precious time for a college kid whom he has met briefly twice? Dr. Tharoor’s humility and his easy- going attitude has left me lost for words.

I believe that it is this class of politicians that India needs for a better and brighter future. And I do not say this only because I admire him, but I truly believe that the future of the Indian democracy can be shaped and moulded to join the race of super-powers in future if we have the class of ‘Shashi Tharoor’ in the majority. There is no perfect democracy but there is hope when there are thinkers like Shashi Tharoor, who is an intellect with a reason in politics, an idea to cherish, an inner will to execute and the fundamental belief in the ‘common good.’ Truly, he is a man on a mission with a vision!

The only person that Dr. Tharoor reminded me of the day I met him was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln won the heart and mind of a nine year old. Dr. Tharoor did something similar only for someone a little older. These are leaders in truth and spirit.

My advice to all those who have been speculating about Indian politicians please ensure to meet Dr. Tharoor, you’ll know for yourself. I definitely can’t wait to meet him again, this time hopefully ILS Law College will have the privilege and honour to host him.

My Dad now realises the reason for my fascination. You will understand too, but first you have to meet him. Before I end I mustn’t forget that earlier that day Dr. Tharoor spoke of “Where is India’s Obama?” at the 2nd Indian Students Parliament. My point: India does not need an Obama when we have a Shashi Tharoor!

So am I lucky? YES! Am I blessed to have Dr. Tharoor as my Mentor? YES Again!