'Politics is no place for humour'
Indians have their own piquant sense of humour, but politics is no place for humour, says Shashi Tharoor.
The former United Nations diplomat found this out the hard way when he posted on Twitter.com that, in deference to the United Progressive Alliance government's austerity drive that called for ministers to fly economy class, he would travel 'in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows.'
Dr Tharoor says he had not allowed for how casual humour would be viewed in the political arena.
"I wrote satirical novels. But in politics there are certain sensibilities," he says.
Image: Shashi Tharoor at the JFK airport in New York
Tharoor revels in the joy of working in government
Dr Tharoor was equally cautious when the national anthems of both India and the United States were sung at the reception. He stood to attention, but didn't place his hand on his chest as Americans do.
A case was filed against him in Kerala when he placed his right hand on his chest when the Indian national anthem was sung; the petitioner alleged he was disrespecting the tricolour.
Asked about his next book, Dr Tharoor said he would write it after his political career is over.
For now, he says he revels in the joy of working in government.
Image: Tharoor speaks at a reception organised by the Malayalee community of the Greater New York area
'I am enjoying life as minister very much'
But he admits he misses New York.
"I miss my wife and many of my friends working at the UN. But at the end of the day, the place is less important (than) work. During my UN days, I was often too busy to enjoy the opportunities in New York. In Delhi, my focus is global, and what is going on in New York is also as important to me," he says.
Relocating to India was not a problem, he adds, as he had intimate ties with the country which he visited frequently, read and written about.
"I was always looking at the larger perspective from outside. I did not know the texture of daily life. Now that I am living that daily life, I absolutely enjoy it. I have no complaints. Of course, there are small difficulties to deal with."
Image: Tharoor outside the United Nations building in New York
Photographs: Jay Mandal on Assignment
'Obsessive focus on irritants is not good'
Speaking on India's border dispute with China, including reports of incursions, he says the issue has been unnecessarily dramatised.
It is a small element of a larger problem, he says, pointing out that China is one of India's top trading partners and Chinese companies are working on several projects in India.
"Tourists are going back and forth and employment visas are issued to many. An obsessive focus on irritants is not a good idea.".
Image: Tharoor with UN Under Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari at the UN