Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flounder in the labyrinth

Of late I have come to admire a columnist called Santosh Desai who writes for the Times of India. His column on Mondays is a general "social commentary" and shows a rare gift of perceptive analysis. He successfully avoids the trap of being too negative and trashing everyone, but occasionally circumstances cry out for widespread trashing and then he doesn't shy away from that either.

Now last Monday, writing on the IPL scandal (there must be more vulgar expansions of IPL than specks of ash in Europe's air these days) Desai had this to say about Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, a key player in the story. If you haven't heard of this gentleman (and/or you don't know what IPL is) then I suggest you skip to my previous blog posting about cucumber soup.

Here's Desai on Tharoor:

"He uses his words as he does his hair; his locks dance and glide sinuously at every camera lens, the charm of hair just that wee bit out of place. Like a too-skilled driver, his words often take him to the wrong places, so fond is he of his own driving. For someone to whom things always came easily, he has got it wrong astonishingly often. Tharoor represents the power of education that resolutely stays skin deep; if it went any deeper, the words would cease to flow so fluidly for they would be tempered with some self-doubt. As it stands, there is no stemming the flow, and he continues to flounder in the labyrinth of his own vocabulary."

In addition to being by far the best prose I've read in a newspaper in recent times, it's a devastatingly accurate depiction of its subject (the rest of the article is equally elegant and devastating). As if on cue, today's TOI reports Netaji Tharoor's latest flounderings in the labyrinth, in a statement to Parliament:

"Madam Speaker, my heart swells with pride for India, and Keralite blood throbs in my veins."

Surely these appalling lines would justify the withdrawal of any literary award he's ever received? But he needn't despair. All that swelling and throbbing could qualify him for the "Bad Sex in Fiction Award" of the Literary Review...

8 comments:

Rahul Basu said...

Does one flounder in a labyrinth? Surely a rather infelicitous description. Also should it not be 'verbosity' rather than 'vocabulary'? Nothing wrong with having a good vocabulary. But I realise you are not responsible for Mr Desai's 'flounderings'.

Ankur Kulkarni said...

Glad to fins someone of my ilk! Santosh Desai, in my opinion, is simply the most insightful columnist in the TOI. If you like clearly thought and well articulated ideas on complex social matters, Santosh Desai is a treat.

I don't know how long you have followed his column. I have been following him for about 2-3 years now and have archived some of his best. Following are some links for you to enjoy.

About "Sach ka Saamna"
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2009/07/27&PageLabel=9&EntityId=Ar00900&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T

On buzz-words.
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2009/08/03&PageLabel=9&EntityId=Ar00900&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T

On poll analysis
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM%2F2009%2F05%2F25&ViewMode=GIF&GZ=T&PageLabel=9&EntityId=Ar00900&AppName=1

And 2 superb articles on Slumdog
http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/16865?task=view

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2009/05/04&PageLabel=7&EntityId=Ar00700&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T

I have many more and will be happy to share :)

Sunil Mukhi said...

I just discovered that the swelling and throbbing bit has been reported differently in different papers. My quote was taken from the TOI's report, but the Economic Times informs us that Tharoor was quoting the Malayalam poet Vallathol Narayana Menon and provides a different English translation. So now I'm not sure if S.T. qualifies for the award I mentioned in my posting.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Rahul: One could flounder in a labyrinth if it was underwater (nobody said it wasn't).

Ankur: Thanks for the links, I look forward to reading them -- or re-reading them, since I must have read them when they first appeared.

Rahul Basu said...

Sunil: Labyrinth under water! Hmm...that requires some imagination. But indeed there is no a priori reason why it cannot be....

Cheeta said...

While an underwater labyrinth could well be appealing (especially if more ministers and other politicos were asked to traverse it), if one were in such a place I don't think one would flounder - the term being usually used to describe one's flopping around like a fish out of water.

Were I in such a place and a flounder (or a pomfret, trout, salmon, cod, tuna or indeed any kind of fish), I would probably enjoy investigating whether or not a gill-equipped piscatorial equivalent of the Minotaur dwelt within the liquid-filled labyrinth's centre. But not being a fish, I would of course drown; hopefully not floundering as I did so.

Mind Without Fear said...

floundering in the labyrinth of comments .... in whatever space (above water, below) ....... About Mr. Tharoor, my opinion is that he has become an embarrassment certainly to himself - the semi-tragedy is that he does not recognize it ......... Away from the tweety world might do him some good ... vipasana perhaps .. apparently it cleanses the blood and releases toxins ( releases where?) ....

vbalki said...

Rahul, as a Stephanian you'll understand this perfectly: Our man Sashi was a history-type over there, like several other honorable honchos in the govt. before he came along. (Absolutely no offence to historians or history intended. But---once upon a time, at least---this label at once categorised a chap as essentially belonging to the same universality class as Bertie's pals in the Drones Club.) At the height of the Rajiv regime, these gentry were running the whole country, pretty much along the same lines on which they conducted sophomoric discussions around the water cooler in the old college, and with about the same level of superficiality. Scary, but we're past that now, you say? Wait a second. The honorable gent currently in charge of S & T has exactly the same pedigree. Need more be said?