Shashi Tharoor and the Holy Cows controversy: Congress’s sense of humour is pathetic

Written by vik

Topics: Humour, Media, People

Trouble is brewing over Shashi Tharoor’s tongue-in-cheek twitter remark to a question by journalist Kanchan Gupta [associate editor, the Pioneer] asked on September 14 2009, 11:57 PM on Twitter. The journalist had asked him if Tharoor will be travelling by cattle class in his next visit to Kerela! For the uninitiated [and this may include the Congress High Command] the ‘Cattle class’ is an internationally popular slang for the standard class, lowest class or the Economy class. Here is a snapshot of the controversial query from twitter:

Twitter - Kanchan Gupta- @ShashiTharoor Tell us Minister

Shashi Tharoor replied, “absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!” Here is a snapshot of the reply! 🙂

Twitter - Shashi Tharoor- @KanchanGupta absolutely Cattle class

Now what’s wrong with that?! In my humble opinion anybody with good command of the English language, idioms and phrases will jump to give such a reply and that includes a minister! You say cattle and a witty person is most likely to think of the phrase ‘sacred cow!’ It’s more likely to happen when you are writing at a micro-blogging site like Twitter where you have to sum up your speech in 140 characters or less! I think Tharoor gave a good reply to the query. He spoke so much in so little. Kanchan Gupta is enjoying it and says the Congress has misunderstood the comment and thinks Tharoor is “referring to a certain person as cow!”

Kanchan Gupta (KanchanGupta) on Twitter shashi tharoor controversy

This is humour but the Congress party is unable to understand it. Nothing less nothing more! It is quite acceptable and it has nothing to do with hurting political sensibilities or anything like that. It is humour! Appreciate it or ignore it! But the congress is doing neither and the “high command will decide” says the Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan.

Shashi Tharoor and Kanchan Gupta were having a banter over the austerity issue. The journalist had asked him if he would be “flying cattle class to Ghana or Liberia?”

Kanchan Gupta (KanchanGupta) on Twitter

Kanchan also writes this in reply to a tweet suggesting ‘austerity measures’ for Tharoor when he visits Noida sector 18:

Kanchan Gupta (KanchanGupta) on Twitter Shashi tharoor austerity drive controversy

The following snapshot is also from the Twitter profile of Kanchan Gupta:

Kanchan Gupta Twitter Shashi Tharoor twitter controversy

The journalist exclaims:

Kanchan Gupta (KanchanGupta) on Twitter_1253119847163

Catch the latest on Shashi Tharoor’s twitter profile (which has presently 1,60,000 followers) and Kanchan Gupta’s twitter profile. Also read Bachi Karkaria [It’s austerity, stupid] and Rajesh Kalra’s ‘Nothing wrong with Tharoor’s Tweet‘ on the TOI blogs. You may also see my report of Shashi Tharoor’s visit to the JNU campus.

Tharoor Says sorry in solidarity with the holy cows

Update 18 September 2009 10:20 am. Click here to read part 2 of this report. Shashi Tharoor says sorry and regrets our lack of ability to appreciate humour.

Published at 11:47 PM IST 16 September 2009; Copyrighted to Vikas Gupta, JNU.

43 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Both sides should take the blame here. Tharoor has done his bit of grave digging by using a phrase which could well be misinterpreted in an open forum for common man to see. When you utter something in a foreign language (considering that majority of us Indians are not used to the Oxford way of saying things) with punchy usage of words, it always leads to interpretation and therefore to gross misinterpretation, in this case. Tharoor, being a diplomat himself should’ve seen the dart in the ‘holy cow’ and ‘cattle class’ even though they are perfect parliamentary usages.

    You cannot balme someone for not having a humour sense but still lets do that for the sake of Tharoor 🙂

  2. Aryan's Mom says:

    Well big shots whould be very careful, when they try to be humourous….

  3. Vikas Gupta says:

    Scorpiogenius, a very balanced comment! The fact remains that ‘holy cows don’t get holy jokes!’ And I am reading your post on the same topic; will comment on it in a minute.

    Aryan’s Mom, they definitely need to be careful and journos like Barkha, Kanchan and others are debating on twitter, public space, off the record comments etc! Silence is golden even in politics!

  4. Anu says:

    Looks like Mr.Minister does not know his country well enough to be so naive not to understand that half of his countrymen do not speak or understand good english.And what is so funny ?The austerity drive or the drought conditions? There is a start to everything…..and so for austerity drive …. The least he can do is quietly follow ….or probably use his hard earned money for donations rather than stay in a 5 star hotel …that would be real austerity …if really wants to prove a point …Mr. Minister u talk big only when ur country is one of the developed ….not when its developing….Nex time a simple layman’s language will do u a lot of good….

  5. Vinod Sharma says:

    Shashi Tharoor was asking for it. How can the Congress accept a junior minister to top the popularity charts in a two-way daily interaction with so many Indians? This tweet was just an excuse to twist his ears.

  6. Pradeep Mishra says:

    What a pity! We have lost our sense of humour and a capacity to laugh at ourselves.I find it merely as a small storm brewing in a teacup. Mr. Tharoor’s comment is innocuous.Nobody is in any doubt about which political party is trying to empathise with voters. Come on grow up, people want better performance from these so called self appointed guardians of right and wrong. Do they have nothing better to do! Austerity drive, my foot. Sau chuhe(Scams)kha kar billi chali haj karne!

  7. KUMAR says:

    We need to understand Mr. Tharoors credentials and background . He was summarily kicked out of the UN and like all overseas Indians suddenly finds the merits of returning to India…Come back to INdia of India ..but deride India. His comment indicates an abject lack of sensitivity …What is his claim to Indian foreign policy . He was part of the team that goofed up big time in Sharmail el Shaik …and has the audacity to refer to it as “a piece of paper” . His only claim to fame is licking up the soles of Ms. Gandhi…

  8. Mukesh Sharma says:

    I think the people should beet him in a “Chauraha” as he has made a comment on all Indians who are traveling in Economy class. Mrs. Sonia gandhi and our PM both are trying to minimise the expenditures but some people like Shashi Tharoor will not let them to succeed.

    I request Mr. PM to kick out him from the ministry.

  9. ashok almadi says:

    Remember when Sam went overboard though in light vein after the 71 war and it was decided on behalf of nation to play dirty-we have little time for enjoying humour because we retaliate without understanding the way in which it was made and we don’t make our role models any more-our media thrusts them upon us.

  10. Biji K.Thomas says:

    Shshi Tharoor is an educated person with good caliber and sense of humor. He has good potential in modern politics which he has proven while in UN. I personally feel that, this may be the reason why the Gongress party has booked him as a party candidate and then into union cabinet ignoring the plea from many so called “party worshipers”, and hence the chances are likely high to target him in his every actions. Here in this website, he has shown his sense of humour, language skill and spontaneous reflection rather than targetting any individual or humiliating the poor or middle class. But it is not his fault if somebody got humiliated while trying to teach him what is India and what are Indians.

  11. Aruna Dayal says:

    Mr Shashi Tharoor is an extremely well person who after a very long time is adorning an important ministry. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of his detractors. His reference to the ‘cattle’ cars is a pointer to the story THE PENDULUM by O HENRY in which cattle cars is not a deregotary term but rather refers to the trains and Shepherd is reference to the Train Conductor.

  12. Arun Shankar says:

    By blogging on the hottest topic of the hour, You once again has proved that you are a perfect fit for a Journalist’s Suit! (Still hovering at the Dak Ghar of UPSC, eh!!!)

  13. Vikas Gupta says:

    Thank you everybody for the comments here.

    Mukesh, I do not think that he should be beaten on a chauraha! That’s such unhealthy thinking. But there are politicians who deserve that!

    By the way, Tharoor is silent on Twitter and one newspaper has published that he has been asked to do away with his micro-blogging. If that happens it will really be bad!

    Though many of you have disagreed with me I still think we need ministers who communicate with the public like Tharoor does! In less than 24 hours his twitter followers have increased by about 7000! There are ministers here who keep silent and are hardly seen working and here is Mr. Tharoor, a minister, who wears his heart on his sleeves and is still being pilloried for it! Let’s hope the Congress does not take any action against him.

  14. Rajyashree says:

    I think Shashi Tharoor would soon start feeling himself underutilized and a misfit after his successful career as one of the most successful diplomats at the UN.Neither his intellectuality would receive appreciaiton nor would he be allowed to move forward with his fathomless international experience.He is with a party where all this type of creamy works are pending for the dynastic heir -apparent to handle even if the person is ignorant and relatively unitellectual.Mr.Tharoor your Party has realised that you are their threat and will find smallest reasons to bully you out of it so that road remains clear for their heir-apparent.Otherwise you were the best to get India the best of relations with neighbours and upgrade it with Nations you have seen socio-economically.But sorry you have to live with this very-near yet very-far situation like you faced in your battle as SG of the UN.Here again your highlighting will submerge the dynasty’s glamour which in Congress Party it cannot be allowed.So again you are the right person in the wrong association.

  15. ashok says:

    I hope that Shashi Tharoor will start working as a union minister rather than being online and chatting on twiter. What a waste of energy for a person who has capability to bring about change and instead of using the capability and God given opportunity of being a minister he seems to be more interested in chatting. He should rather have started a cyber cafe and be there whole day chatting, Why waste an MP’s post and a cabinet berth. For all the hopes of the people of Trivandrum who elected him it seems that the old fellows were good. Now where can a young India look up to, when its hopes of sending a fresh, intellect person to parliament has met this fate. It seems like we will again have to rethink on our commitment not to elect crooks and goons from any party, if the intellect waste their commitment in such a way. Wake up and do some sincere work leaving arrogance behind.

  16. Balakrishnan says:

    The vocabulary of Mr. Sashi Tharoor and his spontaneous response to the journalist has demonstrated the high calibre of the Minister. Unfortunately our parliamentarians and aam janta cannot cope with the humour embedded in such a usage. Was it really intented to point the finger at some personality..? Impossible to think as the response was quick and establishes the voracity of a learned diplomat whom we all should be proud of. Instead of wasting everyone’s time on this cheap gimmick hovering politics, let us concentrate on governing the country and also expose the good samaritan acts done by the Minister for his constituency. Actions speak rather than words and there are many to be remembered during such a short time as Minister. Let us start enjoying the language rather than politicising a bit of the usage.

  17. Well he spoke and we heard, and now whatever happens only adds to his popularity. I thought he was smart and witty. I hope he continues his microblogging.

  18. lena says:

    god!!!! if these ppl cnt undrstnd gud english its thr problm nt shashi tharoor’s n the journalists….if thy sy india is a free country dn y cnt d vry leadr of india voice his opinion in his own words????dis is so hypocritic!!!!

  19. prem says:

    Mr. Shashi Tharoor, a man with mount blowing personality… as prime minister said that was just a jock . Lets try to enjoy the positive meaning of the words quoted by Mr. Tharoor. But the minister should think that the freight ticket either A class,business class or any is not to the reach of common man in the villages.

  20. Rohan K says:

    As an Indo-Canadian, I’ve been watching the debacle that has been going on with Tharoor.
    All I have to say is a man of his class, integrity and eloquence deserves better from his fellow politicians and Indians. It is apparent that his colleagues have an inferiority complex. Instead of appreciating his background as one of the top diplomats of the UN and his vast experience in world diplomatic affairs, you treat him like an ordinary Indian. He is an extra ordinary man, in an otherwise ordinary country. It would do the country good if people of his caliber were allowed to be politicians and shared that uncanny sense of humor.
    And for heaven’s sake, Indians show some class, if your external affairs minister doesn’t travel by business or first class then who will? Do you want to enter the world forum with respect or be treated as a third world nation as so many already perceive you to be. Don’t fool yourselves the racial attacks in Australia are direct repercussions on how the world perceives you (India). Don’t you think you should improve the image of India? It is in point of fact one of the cradles of civilization, yet how often do you Indians reflect it to be?
    Right now you all aren’t doing a very good job of it.
    Last of all it seems Indians have a double standard on Democracy and this is not healthy for the nation as a whole. If Tharoor spent his own money on staying at hotels for 2-3 months at a time, who are you to judge him? Just because he is a politician doesn’t give the public the right to dictate terms on what is and what isn’t acceptable with his own money. As a North American, I’m appalled to see the press not upholding the highest principals of freedom and democracy. Politicians are as much human beings as everyone else and the same standards of democracy and freedom apply to them as well. It would do some good for politicians to learn a thing or two from Tharoor, it might make the nation wiser as a whole.
    You talk of austerity? Yet India has some of the most corrupt politicians in the world with Swiss/ Cayman Island bank accounts in the tens if not hundreds and thousands. Why not expose the true charlatans instead of picking on a fine man like Tharoor for staying in a hotel using his own funds.
    Give the guy a break! He is one of the few individuals that makes India look good in public forums. If you lose him it will be a great loss as a whole to the nation.
    Will you get a sense of humor? Or is it going to be the same old slanderous talk to win cheap political points.
    Remember this, what the world perceives you to be is what you are. So it’s time to change perception!
    It’s time to take action.

  21. Sankaram K S says:

    One interpretation could be that Mr. Shashi Tharoor being a member of the Congress Herd, has to respect the “holy cows who professed the austerity in the Govt.” hence expressed his solidarity. I suspect Ms Jayanthi Natarajan must have understood and interpreted this way for the party to react the way it did. Tharoor has to fall in line with the Delhi Durbar and should never attempt to change it.

  22. murugan says:

    The point is that when you are a minister and supposed to handle the external affairs arrogance should be the last word that anyone should think of when your name is referred. See Mr.Pranab Mukarjee — a man who should have been the prime minister=– would he have ever spoken like Tharoor– its not english– its not humour– it is simple arrogance. And arrogant people pay the price sooner or later. He may scrape through this time– but his mouth will seal his fate soon.

  23. Rohan K says:

    I think you need to start watching some lectures given by Tharoor to come to that conclusion Murugan, once u do, you will see he is not an arrogant man, but always talks so highly of India where ever he lectures, be it in the USA, UK, or in India.

    Tharoor is a great man but is misunderstood by so many people. Do some research on him and see how much humanitarian work he is done for people around the world, then compare him to politicians in India, I promise you, you will be shocked!

  24. ujjawal says:

    It’s high time we learn to laugh at ourselves also learn to call a spade a spade. It is not only the problem of Congress or any specific political party rather people expect them to behave in certain ways.

  25. pradeep reddy says:

    there is a famous saying ”if ur in rome, be a roman”..sorry tharoor saab
    be diplomatic

  26. Rohan K says:

    It’s actually when in “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” and i totally disagree with that analogy.
    The whole point of a democracy is to be yourself and shake up a few things to bring changes in the system. India cannot carry on doing politics the way it does. By this I mean throwing slippers at each other during a session of parliament.
    We need dignified people like Tharoor and less pencil pushers.

  27. smitha kumaran says:

    i love shashi tharoor’s sense of humour… especially after reading his books… he has a satirical way of putting down things… i guess… not everyone can digest that kind of humour…

  28. smitha kumaran says:

    probably his intellect does not suit indian conditions…:(

  29. Thomas Chacko says:

    It takes intellectual subtlety and linguistic sophistication of a fairly high order to appreciate good humour involving word play. Our politicians never lose an opportunity to prove it to the whole world they are totally innocent of these attributes of the evolved human mind. The nincompoops who created a rucus in the parilament over a member’s use of the term “boys” to refer to our army men perfectly complement the current lot crteating a controversy over Tharoor’s intelligent use language.

  30. Rohan K says:

    This is why Tharoor is great for India


    watch that video.

  31. Sunil says:

    nice post…

    look at this one..

  32. chinthu says:

    I dont know much about todays politics. but in my life, i respected only one politician. thatz shashi Tharoor. He is a great personality. I am sure, he will come back.I luv his books also.

  33. Ashish says:

    He came, he spoke, he tweeted, he created controversies and he went. His tryst with controversies cost him his job. What were these controversies?—a-birds-eye-view-of-all-his-controversies

  34. Ashish says:

    Once surrounded by high-profile UN diplomats, now surrounded by controversies. He remained unfazed by all the controversies until one that cost him his job.–an-elite-outsider-is-a-controversys-child

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