“India is not secular in the commonly understood sense of the word. What it is, is pluralist: an overwhelmingly Hindu-majority country running political and governmental institutions that promote the survival, success and perpetuation of religious minorities.” ~Shashi Tharoor, Why I Am A Hindu
The man is absolutely right in his observation, indeed the separation of church and state as it were (religion and administration), was something never implemented or coveted in our country, not for us the atheist solution of China and communist countries, or the tolerant solution of US and the west, or the theocratic exclusionist solution of our neighbor and some in the middle east, Ours is ‘Vivekananda’s acceptance‘, a unique pluralist organic Indian solution. Which Shashi Tharoor has rightly extolled many times in this book.
Indeed for almost half of the book, Mr.Tharoor is marvelous in his explanation (for a layman believing Hindu) of ‘Sanatan dharma’ and much of it’s virtues while giving appropriate places for some of the things which were corrupted and wrong within it and were changed or need to. His arguments for why ‘Sanatan dharma’ is the most compatible and versatile religion for the world at large in the 21st century are brilliant as well. For all that I would have happily given the book 4 stars BUT then came the Congress Man Politician gearing up for the 2019 polls, and all my hopes went down the drain. For the rest of the book he takes in upon himself to discredit the current ruling party at every aspect of their beliefs and actions, thoroughly portraying them as a mutated monster ready to annihilate India and destroy its culture forever. Which would have been fine… really… he is in the opposition, that’s his job…..IF the book was titled “Why the BJP is Shit”. But its not, and so instead of focusing on why he’s a Hindu, he has focused on Why They(BJP) are not. Which, really, is funny in a dark way. So, just for peddling the election rhetoric that its either the Congress or Doomsday for India, I just couldn’t help but deduct stars. So, 2.5 dear sir with all due respect and acceptance.
This is not to say, that the issues which he has raised so ferociously in the book demand no attention, they do, very very much so. All acts of vigilantism, misguided or justified, should be condemned and punished in the severest of ways, in a democracy such acts have no place. As Mr.Tharoor says and I concur “Put simply, no non-violent activity, however provocative, can ever legitimize violence. We must reject and denounce assaults and killings, whatever they may claim to be reacting to”. I am with that, BUT to single out acts and attach them to a rival political party and say this is not my Hinduism, its their’s, is well, quite sleazily opportunistic. I expected more from this book then that.
The Part 1, of the book I enjoyed immensely, celebrating the pluralist and all encompassing aspect of Sanatan dharma is indeed a worthy act. The wisdom of “Sarva dharma sama bhav” (all religions (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other) and “ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti” (The Truth is one though the sages call it by different names) is worth sharing with all humankind. But in fairness this should apply to all the Indian citizens, not just the religious Hindus, indeed these should be the credo of every Indian. And any other teaching, propagating superiority or discrimination or outright contempt, whoever by, whatever may be the source or reason, a holy book, an Imam, a priest, a church should be stopped and lawfully regulated if need be. I do not buy into the argument that if the other faiths are not ready to embrace us and are hostile or doing something which should be questionable in any respectable civilization, we should just let them be. Specially when it comes to laws governing the populace, we the largest democracy in the world could surely come up with a uniform civil code based on the principles of human dignity, freedom and respect, acceptable to all. And if there are some who think differently and if there are laws which are not in sync with the times and the Indian ethos, these should be overruled in the interest of the people. Where does discrimination come into it, it is but logical, here Mr. Tharoor’s appeasement doesn’t sit well with me.
But then again, this is a review and not a critique. Content wise part 1 was enlightening and enjoyable. So, was part 3 as to what we should do as hindus(the religion) and as hindus(the geographical annotation) to protect our ancient openness and wisdom and prosper as a nation. But part 2 made it sour for me, it was quite in your face propaganda, and was more appropriate as a political critique or election debate then as a book trying to explain Hinduism, and differentiating it with Hindutva (portrayed as something sinister, whose’s definition and use as explained by Mr.Tharoor, I disagree with). But well I picked it up and read it. If you can read up-to page 141 and discard the rest, go for it, the whole package as it is, is not worth all that much.