Nation on the March

Nation on the March
Nation on the March

Oct 12, 2009

Of Holy Cows and the rest of the cattle

Shashi Tharoor was born abroad, has studied abroad and worked abroad. Ishaan and Kanishk are twin sons of Shashi. Ishaan lives in Hong Kong and works for “Time” magazine. Kanishk lives in London and works for “Open Democracy”. Obviously the upbringing has been top class, the lifestyle upbeat and there is no surprise that the preference is for 5-star hotels.

But it has not always been so for the Tharoor clan, in Shashi Tharoor’s own words ( ref : his column in The Hindu on Sunday, Sep 26, 2004, titled “Standing Tall” 2004/09/26/stories/ 2004092600270300.htm )

He wrote this nostalgic obituary to mourn the demise of his father’s eldest brother Tharoor Parameshwar, who had just passed away.

Let us read his own words:

“MY sisters and I knew him as "Valiachan", which in Malayalam is literally "Big Father", for he was our father's elder "brother", indeed the eldest. …… For he was one of those people who was not merely a self-made man, but one who had made others; …….. Valiachan was born, in February 1918, into a good family that had fallen upon hard times. Historians tell us that at the time of Vasco da Gama, the entire area around Palghat was known as "Tharoor Swarupam", but the Tharoors had, over the centuries, been reduced to farming at levels little above subsistence. The usual Kerala solution had to be found to the problem: emigration.

So young Param, a brilliant student, dropped out of school after standard 10, learned typing and moved to Bombay, aged 18, to look for a job. His father had been ailing for years and soon passed away, leaving the financial responsibility for his mother, four brothers and three sisters upon the teenager. Valiachan found a place in the Ramakrishna Mission at the Bombay suburb of Khar where, in return for cleaning the premises, he was allowed to sleep on the floor and given one free meal a day. Each day he walked 20 kilometres to work in the Fort area and back, because he could not afford the bus fare. But he sent money home. Before he became an adult, Valiachan had become the saviour of his family.

…………. After a few temporary jobs he was hired by the largest advertising agency in British India, J. Walter Thomson, as a stenographer. His intelligence, integrity and drive soon shone through: within a couple of years he was the Media Manager. ……………..(Later) he decided to set up shop on his own in London. In those days most major Indian businesses were headquartered in London while the consumers were in India, so for five years he ran a successful operation from Fleet Street ……..

While doing this he not only supported his family in Kerala but brought his three youngest brothers to London to study and start their working lives. It was no accident that two of them followed Valiachan into advertising: one was my own father, Chandran Tharoor.

London lost its attractions after independence, so three years (were spent) in Calcutta ….. In 1955 Valiachan returned to Bombay in triumph, as the founder publisher of the Indian edition of the Reader's Digest.

The boy who could not afford to complete his schooling, who walked 20 km to work each day, ended a long and distinguished life as the patriarch of a highly successful and prosperous family, and the revered patron of an entire profession.”

It is not difficult to imagine that what would have been the plight of seven siblings and the mother if the eldest one had not created great opportunities for himself as well as three brothers, (Shashi Tharoor’s father included).

Imagine that just 20 years before Shashi’s birth, the plight of Tharoor family- as described by him - was similar to several lower middle class families in India who make a daily struggle for managing two square meals a day and a shelter. Every one knows that two years ago, a plate of idlis cost ‘merely’ Rs.395 + taxes at the renowned 5-star hotel Taj Man Singh hotel, which he found to be nearest to his affluent life style.

Out of this self-professed extravagance under the pretext of ‘proper residential accommodation” was born the infamous “cattle class” controversy which robbed Shashi of his stiff ‘moral’ upper lip and he was saved from being the first sacrifice at the altar of austerity in almost first 100 days of his rise to the national fame.

Winning a battle

We are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of Nature has placed in our power... the battle, sir, is not to the strong alone it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . -

Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736June 6, 1799)

He served as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779. A prominent figure in the American Revolution, Henry is known and remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech, and as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He is remembered as one of the most influential (and radical) advocates of the American Revolution andrepublicanism, especially in his denunciations of corruption in government officials and his defense of historic rights