In recent years (more precisely after the Narendra Modi-led government came to power in 2014), one of the main topics of debate that spills onto almost every issue is the one surrounding Hindutva.
Whether it is about cattle trade, protecting an iconic monument or a Bollywood movie, the questions of Hindutva and Hindu identity resonate throughout, whether or not they have any actual relevance to the point of contention.
So, in these unsettling times, a book that seeks to explain and attempts to draw the line between Hinduism, Hindu India and Hindutva is much welcome. Dr Shashi Tharoor’s ‘Why I am a Hindu,' complete with Lord Ganpathi on the cover, closely examines the faith he was born into, the teachings of Hindu holy books (not one single book, he asserts) and the notions that are being spread in the name of Hindutva.
And Tharoor, an orator par excellence and author of several bestsellers, sets out on his task in the most meticulous manner. Tharoor, widely quoting from the Vedas and Upanishds, creates an armor of sorts and by standing at the center of this shield, the Congress MP trains guns on the Modi government that seems to be riding on a Hindutva agenda. Tharoor does not separate himself from the faith, instead calling himself a liberal Hindu, he sings laurels of the religion. And uses the very scriptures and holy texts to showcase the flaws in the theory of certain fundamentalists who have been rallying for a Hindu India.
The former diplomat shares glimpses about his own upbringing by his devout Keralite parents,who did not seek to impose their religious practices on their son. Therein lies the biggest strength of Hinduism, it lets you choose your path, Tharoor points out. He just doesn’t stop with the scriptures, he also quotes from the great exponents of the religion – from Shankaracharya to Swami Vivekananda – to reiterate that Hinduism survived for more than 4,000 years not because it tried to suppress other religions but because it gave space for people from other beliefs.
He completely backs the claims that most of the inventions and discoveries now credited to the West, were first found by our sages. Even while hailing the positives, Tharoor asserts that these cannot be seen as an excuse for randomly changing the syllabus of children’s textbooks or tweak history so as to favor Hindu rulers and put the Muslim sultans in bad light or attack people of other communities.
But one cannot fully see the book as an impartial crusader for the cause of Hinduism, either. The author, we must remember, is a sitting MP with the opposition ranks and that the Congress politician from Thiruvananthapuram, even while accusing the BJP of playing vote-bank politics, has conveniently forgotten similar accusations raised against his party.
It would be near suicidal to comment on or review the language of an author who is in the habit of sending even the best of the linguists scurrying for their dictionaries with his statements.
Tharoor offers you an engaging read and even if you don't agree with all of his contentions, you need to ponder over the claims made by him - for there is a machinery that is slowly but surely changing the dynamics of an ancient faith and in turn of our country.
Book: Why I am A Hindu
Author: Dr Shashi Tharoor
Price: Rs 699/-
Publication: Aleph Book Company
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