Sunday, November 08, 2009

Shashi Tharoor, Twitter and other kinds of cautious optimism

Last week, it was the 175th anniversary of the landing of Indians in Mauritius, mostly “indentured labourers who overcame unimaginable privations and succeeded”. India sent a Dhruv helicopter as a present. Elsewhere, efforts were begun to have Kerala's snake boats perform at the 2010 Oxbridge Boat Race. India voted for the Palestine resolution at the UN Human Rights Council. A few weeks ago, an Indian locomotive was flagged off in Benin...

I know all this from Shashi Tharoor’s Twitter feed. Along with about a hundred thousand other Indians, I only discovered his page during the cattle-class brouhaha, and then became an avid follower. Now I even get it on my phone. Several times a day, I’m distracted or delighted by a glimpse into another world. If nothing else I get a random thought from someone who’s better read, more travelled and far more informed than I, which are not always things you can say of a politician. I wish more of them were out there willing to talk about their days – simply seeing what they choose to tweet about would be such an insight into their ways!

The Times or the Hindu tell me that people are being murdered in their beds, our cities are on red alert, people are starving, someone’s starting something inadvisable in the name of religion, and the Karnataka Government is ignoring the plight of flood victims in favour of some spirited infighting. I need to know all this, but it’s also a relief to be able to balance it with some positivity. This, then, is the attraction of Shashi Tharoor’s tweets – hope. In small, 140-character doses, on an everyday scale. It’s a side of Government you rarely see because hope does not make for banner headlines (unless it’s the big, dramatic variety, as in “America’s first black president”), and the purveyors of news usually don’t bother with it.

His tweet after a meeting in London covers it: “We live in a world of opportunities, not just threats”. He’s in Bangalore today for a Tweet Up very close to where I work, but unfortunately three in the afternoon on a working day is not a convenient time at all.

Photo courtesy: Shashi Tharoor (@shashitharoor) flagging of a Benin Railways train being pulled by an Indian locomotive | TweetPhoto

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