Tag Archives: Shashi Tharoor

Should there be a holiday on Gandhi Jayanti?

This was a valid, and a little less schismatic this time, question raised by Shashi Tharoor (again, on Twitter). Personally, I have no problem with national holidays and if I’m not wrong we just have 3 national holidays. Before we can answer whether we should have a holiday on the birthday of a person who worshipped work, we have to decide why in the first place we take a holiday on this day?

Ideally, this type of holiday should be taken so that we can sit aside for a day and think about the great soul. People should get together, whether online and offline, and talk about Mahatma Gandhi: his life, his philosophy, how he supposedly got us independence, his non-violent (and controversial) ways, and what he thought about the world in general (and about sex, according to this Tweet from Pritish Nandy). There should be neighborhood gatherings (do we still have those?) of kids and adults and hold discussions on Mahatma Gandhi. Do we do that? Hardly.

For instance, this time it was nothing but an extended weekend. People pack up their bags and go to visit places they can visit and come back by late Sunday evening. Or they simply laze around. You hear or read things about Gandhi only while casually browsing through TV news channels, Twitter streams and blogs. Music and entertainment channels start broadcasting Valentines-related or festival-related programs days in advance (so that people don’t absentmindedly forget about spending their money on greeting cards, expensive gifts and themed dinners). They don’t even show themed songs the way they, occasionally, do on Republic and Independence Days. So it just becomes a holiday. So should we have it?

This holiday should be scrapped. But instead of working or studying, people should do some brainstorming on how we can improve our country? When was the last time you constructively talked about making your country a better place to live? We all criticize and crib as regularly as we shit, but how many times we actually think about solutions and how to implement them? If the guys at BlogActionDay can organize blog action days year after year and motivate bloggers all over the world to write on relevant topics, why cannot we organize such days on Gandhi Jayanti? Senior managers and school/college principals should organize cleanliness drives where they visit neighboring places and clean them up. You may think what can be achieved by doing such things once a year? Not much. But do you think our country is so hopeless that if hundreds of thousands of people participate in this annual event, not even a few hundred will carry on the work for a few more days and in the process motivate more people?

Twitter, Shashi Tharoor and Cattle Class

It all started with this innocuous exchange between Kanchan Gupta, a prominent columnist who writes for the Pioneer, and Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs, an avid Twitter user and the current media blue-eyed boy (my wife’s expression).

tharoor-gupta-twitter

One tweet and from a media darling he has become a pariah, and this was bound to happen, and I wonder why he, or anybody else for that matter, never saw it coming (I’ll explain later). And the most appalling aspect of all this is, "cattle class" wasn’t even his expression, he was simply replying to Kanchan Gupta’s tweet: it was a simple exchange between two individuals that was blown out of proportion by the media as well as politicians. Go through various online links of newspapers and TV channels and nobody mentions even once that the expression did not originate from him.

Of course this could be because of the fact that unless you use some extra Twitter tools or a JavaScript addon you cannot see the tweet he had replied to. But before jumping the gun, at least the media dudes should have checked the entire chain of the tweet exchange.

About cattle class, 60 years of Congress governance has made sure that a majority of Indian citizens live like cattle. May be the expression touches a sore spot. May be the party has a ghost of a conscience by a freak chance.

Anyway, back to why they should have seen it coming. The days of individual politicians have gone. Most political parties in India thrive on the halos created around particular families and individuals, and all other members have to operate from under their shadow. Just look what happened to Jaswant Singh. After writing the book, he became an individual and moved outside of the shadow.

Similarly, the Congress party workers have to work within the shadow boundary of the Gandhi family. By using Twitter, by articulating his thoughts, by directly interacting with the common folks Tharoor is building his own mass base — people have begun to adore him and perhaps in the process, have begun to neglect the other blue-eyed boy, Rahul G. Now how can this be tolerated in a party where sycophancy is religion and the 3 Gandhis at the helm are no less than gods?

So in the guise of austerity and an abstract tweet, he is being targeted by his own party men and women, and soon they will be competing with each other just to show how loyal they are to the real blue-eyed trinity.

According to his latest tweets Shashi Tharoor has apologized, and in a country where words and rhetoric matter more than reality, he has done the right thing. Ours is a strange country. Speak truth and people will lunge at your throat; feed them with pleasant lies and they will fall on your feet.