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Shashi Tharoor shares truths about mental illness, Congress and right-wing politics in this Reddit session

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, author of 16 books, MP from Thiruvananthapuram, former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and frequent visitor of Reddit AMA's! had quite a lot to say in his recent 'Ask me Anything' session on the social media site Reddit. The politician was asked over 383 questions in this session. He answered questions about everything from mental illness and GST to Donald Trump and right-wing politics.

The top rated discussion on this AMA was Tharoor's take on mental illness. When asked about the dismal situation of mental health awareness in India, Tharoor referred to his speech in Parliament on Friday last week. Some of the most memorable parts of the speech were when Tharoor accurately described how difficult it is to diagnose mental illness. "Somebody has a broken mind. It is extremely difficult to diagnose it. Sometimes, people as far as their appearances go seem perfectly healthy. They are happy. They come across as social beings while confronting painful inner battles." He also asserted, "The big elephant in the room is the fact that every one of us actually knows somebody who has a mental health problem," to which the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, M. Thambidurai said, and quote, "everyone in public life has problems." Perhaps this is exactly why it is important to watch Tharoor's speech.

He then gave his take on the rise of right-wing politics in the West and how it would affect India.

He was quite frank in admitting that ideologies wouldn't come in the way of diplomacy, but that India would face repercussions of these conservative policies. "It would affect immigration from India, and work permits; but as far as diplomacy is concerned, we deal with governments irrespective of their internal politics," he said. He also added in another thread that, "I think our relationship with president Trump is going to be interesting and potentially beneficial.... despite the legitimate concerns that some of his domestic priorities may impact India adversely." He was a little more diplomatic when it came to Russia, saying that Russia has, "great influence but also great negatives after its involvement in Ukraine. President Trump's policies toward Russia will be worth watching, as will the interrelationships among the US, Russia and China." Political funding and strategy the Congress would adopt in the 2019 general elections was the next topic of discussion.

Tharoor replied, "This is one of the issues we are already taking up, but there's real concern that what the 'newspaper-reading classes' care about do not resonate with the majority of voters (as we saw with demonetisation in the recent state elections). The list of issues we will take up is very lengthy, ranging from farmers' suicides to agricultural price support, on the one hand, to freedom of expression in universities & the misuse of nationalism on the other."

Tharoor was rather laconic about the Aadhar cards being made compulsory against the Supreme Court's order. "Waiting for the SC to pronounce its final verdict on this," was all he had to say about the issue. Tharoor's two cents on the GST were, "GST can add enormously to our economy because our inter-state commerce is a sclerotic mess right now. You don't see lines of trucks at state borders in the US; you do in India. We have to remove those bottlenecks." Tharoor also mentions how he is 'cautiously optimistic' about decriminalisation of homosexuality in Kerala.

Tharoor being a prolific author, books were a naturally common theme of discussion. When asked about his favourite books, he recommended The Mahabharata, One Hundred Years of Solitude and almost anything by PG Wodehouse. He also added in another question that The Mahabharata would be his book recommendation to a typical Indian youth. When asked which books moulded his teenage mind, Tharoor mentioned the essay "Growing Up with Books in India" in his novel "Bookless in Baghdad".

The Reddit community also didn't hesitate to inquire the MP about issues related to the Indian National Congress. When he was asked, "Wasn't it more important to tackle the current electoral problems faced by the Indian National Congress and other centre-left/left parties than it is to address the problems of the Empire?" He retorted that, "I don't pursue my personal intellectual interests at the expense of my party and remain available to contribute to all the other issues the Congress is involved with and wants me to raise. But I am not the party leader and have no role in the party organisation as such, so my writing on Empire does not implicate the party — though I believe it is a worthwhile reminder of the real nationalism the Congress stands for," to which he added a link to an article that equates that Tharoor is looking to revive the Congress brand of nationalism through his book. He also mentioned an op-ed about Yogi Adityanth in the thread, where he poses some blunt questions to the newly-appointed head of UP’s government.

On protecting secularism in the times of Hindu nationalism, Tharoor suggested, "Through resisting the 'Hindi/Hindu/Hindustan' view of the diverse and pluralistic society and nation that India is, and by constantly articulating a broader and more inclusive view."

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Updated Date: Mar 30, 2017 17:03:17 IST