Live Blog: Shashi Tharoor in Manipal9 min read
14:45 As the unusual warmth of the winter afternoon sets in, we welcome you to the live coverage of the keynote address at the Teenovators competition conducted by Manipal University in association with Ink Talks by veteran Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor. This is only the second time The Manipal Journal is live blogging an event after first experimenting with the medium in Adam Gilchrist’s visit to Manipal in November 2016.
14:50 As expected, a large and diverse gathering is still pouring in, consisting of students and faculty alike. Shashi Tharoor, is an active Indian politician, a reputable orator and an invited speaker to the Oxford Union Debates. Until 2007, he was a career official at the United Nations, rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information in 2001. After 29 years at the UN, Shashi Tharoor announced his departure after finishing second in the 2006 elections for the Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon.
14:55 For the young Indian, Tharoor stands as a dynamic political figure of global repute. He was previously Minister of State in the Government of India for External Affairs (2009–2010) and Human Resource Development (2012–2014).
14:57: The MIT Quadrangle is packed as the audience rises to greet the guest of honor Shashi Tharoor, GK Prabhu and accompanying Manipal University delegates.
15:05: “In the last six years Manipal Institute of Technology has encouraged school students to come with their own innovation and technology,” begins Dr. GK Prabhu, stating the reason for the commencement of Teenovators. The popular director ends his speech with the synonymous cry of the engineering institute ‘Mighty Mighty, MIT.’
15:12: Narayana Sabahit, Registrar Manipal University, hails the academic expanse of the University,”We are the best multi-disciplinary university in the country, truly global. We have so many courses, it is better to ask which courses we do not have rather than the ones we have.”
Manipal University has announced numerous tie ups with institutes around the world including in Vietnam and Ethiopia.
Shashi Tharoor sitting across Narayan Sabahit, Registrar, MU || Photo Courtesy: Shitiz Goel
15:18: Lakshmi Praturi, Founder and CEO Ink, is now speaking, “What is important for a university like Manipal is to nurture the talent and innovation. Every year we reach 450 Schools, about one lakh students and over 1000 projects. We take these projects, analyse their innovation and encourage it by giving the students prizes. We are very happy to partner with Manipal University for the same.”
15:25: Shashi Tharoor now takes to the stage to a warm round of applause from the crowd.
“There is so much interest in innovation, there is no surprise in me. India is increasingly looking forward to innovation as the pathway to the future.”
15: 26: “I was thinking of the story of the two goats who were chewing away near the Bollywood. The first goat says, you know the film is not bad. The second goat replies, but the book was better. The book is always better. Having said that, you may think I have my own set of vested interests being a writer.” (laughs)
Tharoor is an author, United Nations peace-keeper, refugee worker, human rights activist, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs. Oh, and he is a Member of Parliament.
15: 28: “Our economy was socialist and protectionist in the past. Now we have a pathway and it has transformed since the liberalisation of India in 1991. I remember Dr. Manmohan Singh saying – No idea is as powerful as the one whose time has come.”
Talking of the economy…
15:33: “Although some reforms have slowed down our economy and we have fallen just slightly behind, our economy is booming *MIT siren rings* …Well is that suppose to be a siren for the rest of the world? It must be. *Siren stops slowly* And it is slowing down just like that. (laughs)
The classic MIT siren broke Tharoor’s train of thought at a critical time. I wonder if the papers tomorrow will carry a harsher tone of comment on this topic.
15:36: “Our demographic dividends have created unemployment and also unemployable men. With such a young demography this unemployment ultimately becomes a threat to the society. This has also been similarly observed with Maoism. What today the young minds, like that of Manipal, need is to harness the energy of young India and create solutions to these problems.”
India is the youngest of the economically powerful countries of the world.
15:40: “It is striking and interesting when we hear of the Dabbawalas in Mumbai,the Sulabh Shaunchalays and even Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav’s reforms becoming management case studies because of their innovation.
It is funny how we have many levels of innovation. When we found out many people cannot afford to pay for phone calls, we innovated with the concept of the miss call. One miss call and your parents call you back.” *laughs*
Anirban does that with everyone.
15:45: “But when we hear of frugal innovation, India has it. We have sent the cheapest mars mission and succeeded at the very first attempt. Not even the US has done that. Tata Swachh is ten times cheaper than any other water purifiers in the world. When we know that people are still dying because of these basic amenities, such kind of technology is definitely groundbreaking.”
15:53 “Ours is a country with genuine problems. Aside from celebrating our growth, what really matters is the bottom percentage of our society. As long as their problems are not solved, or technology will stand as a reproach to them. Once our innovation produces solutions I am sure all of you sitting out here will be proud of yourselves. Not all problems have been solved. But we Indians can do it.”
The tone of the talk has been largely uplifting, very similar to his Ted talk on ‘Soft Power’.
“I am sure you all will make exceptional contribution to the wealth and progress our country needs. Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Since change will not come without quality, I am sure that through your exceptional innovation you will contribute to improve this quality.”
15:57: “I wish you all the best for all your endeavours. To all the Teenovators and the students, you have it in you whatever you choose to do in life. With this I conclude. Jai Hind,” says Shashi Tharoor ending a sharp and concise speech highlighting inspirational stories from across the country.
16:03: Lakshmi Praturi begins her Q&A session with Shashi Tharoor.
Who or what was your inspiration for you joining the UN?
“It wasn’t really an inspiration. The desire was there from within. I felt it would be a futile thing to do just to live and die. Therefore it was my elementary philosophy to do something within that period which would matter. I wrote a short story The Political Murder at the time of emergency and it was banned. All of this played into the reason I did not write the UPSC exams and moved on to the United Nations”
16:13: In your book you have written about the legacy of India at the time when the British arrived. When the Company came to India, why were we such a successful entity to fall prey? Were we fragmented?
“India was rich with resources. There were lots of local principalities. Also a lot of betrayal. In the Battle of Plassey, Mir Jaffer paid the British to replace Siraj-ud-daulah and put him on the throne, then Mir Qasim paid the British to replace Mir Jaffer. British did take advantage of all the betrayal and unfortunately that is also a part of our legacy.”
16: 15: Indian politics has been both kind and harsh to you. What makes you stay? Why don’t you do something different for a living?
“There’s no money in politics. My salary is 50 thousand rupees a month. I have to maintain offices in Delhi and Trivendrum, I have to maintain staff and vehicles so I supplement my income through writing. Other politicians supplement in other ways and it is a shame.”
“Politics has been rather harsh to me. I went through an Agni Pariksha in my early years. I had to grow a thicker skin the hard way. In democracy, politics is still the one genuine way you can make a difference in this country. After all, Modi has done a great job. He spent many many years in the wilderness before reaching this position to influence.”
The first mention of the honourable Prime Minister with whom he shares a relationship of mutual respect.
“There are problems, there are frustrations but this is my country. I was entitled to a British passport but I didn’t take it. I look in the mirror and I see an Indian and I can’t be indifferent to what happens in India. We are thrashing out number of important issues, experimenting with politics and eventually we could be the leaders of the world.”
Patriotic from Tharoor. His body of work, especially the bills he has introduced in the parliament fighting for transgender, homosexuality, women and refugee rights, is commendable. He is the only Member of Parliament to have successfully passed a private member bill (Transgender bill) in the last 45 years.
16: 20: Any concluding message before we end?
“I know our teachers and parents are always comparing us with every second person. Comparing is a foolish game. The most important thing is to compare one to himself. Recognize what your strengths are. No one can be a better you than you can be.”
16: 28: Now, the Teenovators take the stage for the felicitation programme and the introduction of their project synopsis.
16:33: Joint Director BHP Pai concludes proceedings with the vote of thanks.
16:37: That ends the interaction with one of the most accomplished senior diplomats in the Indian political spectrum. Assured as ever, Tharoor shared personal anecdotes from his life leaving the audience with a sense of hope and belief.
Photographs Courtesy: Shitiz Goel
This is Anirban Paul and Prajwal Bhat, reporters for The Manipal Journal signing off. Thank you for following our live coverage. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.