A NEWSPAPER column is, as demonstrated by its best practitioners, a minor but nevertheless demanding art form, the essence of which is to give memorable expression to the topical by linking it to deeper realities. Those who carry it off most successfully on the Indian scene—Ramachandra Guha, Vir Sanghvi, Girish Shahane, Santosh Desai, Mukul Kesavan, Swaminathan S. Aiyar—delight and provoke us not only with their command over their subject but also their flair for shrewd generalisation and the economy and lucidity of their expression.
Sadly none of these qualities are visible in Shashi Tharoor’s The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone, a ragbag of columns and op-eds in which ancient platitudes, second-hand insights, and tacky witticisms are aimed at the reader with a quite breathtaking conviction. Tharoor has never been a very good columnist anyway, so his unwise (but in some ways perfectly characteristic) decision to gather up his jottings only serves to expose more clearly his considerable shortcomings in the realm of both thought and expression. More on Chandrahas Choudhury’s blog »