Wanted to study history at Presidency College, Tharoor says

Wanted to study history at Presidency College, Tharoor says

TNN | Oct 21, 2014, 12.40 AM IST

KOLKATA: No visit to Kolkata is “just a visit” for former Union minister and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. It is always a rush of memory, a warming of the heart, offering much-needed relief from an otherwise hectic life. After all, he spent his most impressionable years here, something that moulded his sensibilities and intellect. Now on a city visit, TOI joined Tharoor in a freewheeling chat that spanned his school days, his Kolkata experience, the beginning of his literary career and his deep interest in the way the city is once again showing signs of revival.

Perhaps we would have got a completely different Tharoor had he stayed on here for post-school education? “I wanted to study history at Presidency College after I passed ISC from St Xavier’s School. But the city was going through one of its worst turmoils then, thanks to the Naxalite upsurge, with one of its citadels at Presidency. So I decided to pursue history at St Stephen’s College. Those days, it was more prestigious to study history at Presidency, but alas!” Tharoor smiled.

That was the beginning of a decadence that saw the city moving to the very nadir of its existence. One by one, corporate houses left the city and gradually it turned into a backwater. “During our time, Chatterjee International was the only big building that we saw getting built. Landmarks like the Indian Museum were dirty grayish-brown structures that you walked past, Tharoor remembered.

Happily, that is fast changing and there is a sense of vitality now. Looking out of his car, Tharoor marvelled at the way Rajarhat is springing up, a short nudge away from the stylish Salt Lake, which during his time was a locality with modest middle-class homes. “It’s a pleasure to look at the museum and Town Hall,” he said.

The thought of what needs to be done to catapult Bengal into the “international conscience” occupies quite a bit of Tharoor’s mindspace and he looks at it in his forthcoming essay, ‘The Way Forward’, which is part of ‘India Sutra’, a book due for release in January 2015. “There are some inherent problems in Bengal… past mistakes and lessons to learn,” he said. The discussion automatically veered towards writing and his abandoned novels.

Fiction writing is something he has always sought refuge in, because it offers him the chance to create an alternative world. “My life today is divided between my responsibilities in the Parliament and my commitment towards my constituency, Thiruvananthapuram. It is extremely hectic and doesn’t offer me a chance to take time off for fiction writing… There are many who constantly urge me to start writing fiction all over again, one of them being writer, editor and friend, David Davidar,” revealed Tharoor.

So, in a forthcoming book of collected short stories, which will even have a translated story from Tagore’s works, Tharoor has written a short story. It has been woven out of a novel that he had started writing way back in 1992 and abandoned midway.

“It’s another take on the voyage that Christopher Columbus undertakes with an intent to discover India. My Columbus meets an Indian pilot in the prison of Spain and frees him so that he can guide him on his voyage. You must read the rest…” he laughed.

Will he similarly convert his unfinished novel plots into short stories? “No plans yet. They were somehow jinxed and I could never finish them,” he confided.

Will Tharoor the fiction writer ever engage in full-time writing? “Maybe one day, if I decide to take a break from politics and decide to return to this much-loved world. Let’s see. The world might call me a former minister, a former politician or a former diplomat, but I would definitely not wish to be called a former writer,” Tharoor signed off.

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