Book review - Why I am a Hindu

While the Hinduism vs Hindutva debate continues to rage even in these virus-infected times, Dr. Tharoor’s work presents a rational and calm perspective, most of the time

Words AnindaSardar
Photography RoshniManghani

There’s just no getting away from the fact that 2019 witnessed the most polarised and ugliest elections in recent history. And one of the principal faultlines that has led to this polarization is the very idea of Hinduism. So deep are the roots of this polarization that even in our pandemic ridden world we continue with this Us and Them finger pointing as if we never grew up past that little child on the school playground who’s looking to blame someone for his or her miseries. At a time like this when the debate between Hinduism and the political ideology of Hindutva rages on in social media, drawing rooms and college canteens, Dr. Shashi Tharoor’s Why I Am A Hindu offers a calm and rational perspective.

Why I Am a Hindu is delightfully anecdotal

At the cost of stating the obvious, the author’s diction is an absolute delight as always, and so is his lucidity in the dissection of ideas and practices that surround the notion of Hinduism. The book starts off as a personal journey where he walks us through the idea that Hinduism is about many paths eventually converging into an idea of the divine and not any single path to divinity. This anecdote-rich part of the book, which details out the religion’s divergent practices in different parts of the country, is also a silent indictment for all those who steadfastly hold on to a homogeneous idea of Hinduism.

Title: Why I Am A Hindu
Author: Dr. Shashi Tharoor
Publisher: Aleph
ISBN:9789386021106, 9386021102
MRP:Rs 699

The book then moves into its final two phases beginning with a discourse on the development of Hindutva as a political ideology that is separate from the religious, rather spiritual, idea of Hinduism. To bolster his thoughts the author cites examples of how tenets of Hinduism have been abused in the interest of political expediency. He then moves on to how India can take Hinduism back from what he clearly sees as usurpers an inclusive philosophy. 

There are however two areas that I perceive are the book’s weakness. Given Dr. Tharoor’s political background, some sections of the book do seem, if not by design at least by default, to lead the reader towards his own political ideology. Lastly, his resolution of the section on caste practices is somewhat unsatisfying in a country where caste based discrimination continues to be rampant at a socio-political level. Nonetheless, well researched and fantastically penned down, there’s no doubt the book is a must read and a must have on the shelf of an evolved man.