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Five magnificent words from Tharoorosaurus every linguaphile must know

Tharoorosaurus || Shashi Tharoor

Language can act as a loaded weapon when used with lucidity and eloquence. Shashi Tharoor is the wizard of words, his literary prowess unparalleled. In his book Tharoorosaurus, he shares fifty-three examples from his vocabulary: unusual words from every letter of the alphabet as well as fun facts and interesting anecdotes behind the words.


Today, we are giving you an exclusive glimpse into the exquisite world of Tharoosaurus by sharing five spectacular words from the book with you. Are you ready to impress? Well, here we go!



Meaning: consisting of both good and evil

Usage: The Mahabharata is unusual among the great epics because its heroes are not perfect idealized figures, but agathokakological human beings with desires and ambitions who are prone to lust, greed and anger and capable of deceit, jealousy and unfairness.

Origin: Coined in the early nineteenth century by sometime British Poet Laureate Robert Southey, best known for his ballad ‘The Inchcape Rock.’




Meaning: a disorderly outburst, tumult, row, ruckus or disturbance; a disorder, flurry, or agitation; a fuss

Usage: In view of the kerfuffle around my tweet wrongly attributing to the US a picture of Nehruji in the USSR, I thought it best to tweet some pictures that really showed him in the US.

Origin: Kerfuffle turns out to be quite commonly used in Scots, the language of Scotland, and is an intensive form of the Scots word ‘fuffle,’ meaning ‘to disturb’. The modern word comes from the Scottish ‘curfuffle’ by way of earlier similar expressions that were spelt variously as curfuffle, carfuffle, cafuffle, cafoufle, even gefuffle.




Meaning: boastful or inflated talk or behaviour

Usage: The politician’s rodomontade speeches sought to conceal his total lack of substance, or indeed of any real accomplishment.

Origin: It originated in the late sixteenth century as a reference to Rodomonte, the Saracen king of Algiers, a character in both the 1495 poem Orlando Innamorato by Count M.M. Boiardo, and its sequel, Ludovico Ariosto’s 1516 Italian romantic epic Orlando Furioso, who was much given to vain boasting. 




Meaning: a shrewd, unprincipled politician

Usage: Though ‘Snollygoster’ is a fanciful coinage in American English slang going back to 1846, it can easily apply to many practitioners of Indian politics in 2020.

Origin: Snollygoster (sometimes spelled, less popularly, snallygaster) was originally, in American English, the name of a monster, half-reptile, half-bird, that preyed on both children and chickens—suggesting rural origins. From its usage in 1846 to describe an unprincipled politician, however, it has come to mean ‘a rotten person who is driven by greed and self-interest’.




Meaning: in chess and other games, a ‘compulsion to move’ that  places the mover at a disadvantage.

Usage: The grandmaster, outwitted by his opponent, found himself in zugzwang and chose to resign.

Origin: Zugzwang, a word of German origin, comes from two German roots, Zug (move) and Zwang (compulsion), so that zugzwang means ‘being forced to make a move’. 





The Idea of an Ever-ever Land, An Excerpt from Shashi Tharoor’s Essay in ‘Left, Right, and Centre’

Senior journalist Nidhi Razdan’s ,‘Left, Right and Centre: The Idea of India’ captures the country in its essence as a melting pot of cultures and histories
Former bureaucrat and current Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor, in his essay ‘The Idea of an Ever-ever Land’ talks about how any truism can never hold good for a country as plural as India.
Here’s an excerpt from Tharoor’s essay.
Just thinking about India makes clear the immensity of the challenge of defining what the idea of India means. How does one approach this land of snow peaks and tropical jungles, with twenty-three major languages and 22,000 distinct ‘dialects’ (including some spoken by more people than Danish or Norwegian), inhabited in the second decade of the twenty-first century by over a billion individuals of every ethnic extraction known to humanity? How does one come to terms with a country whose population is nearly 30 per cent illiterate but which has educated the world’s second-largest pool of trained scientists and engineers, whose teeming cities overflow while two out of three Indians scratch a living from the soil? What is the clue to understanding a country rife with despair and disrepair, which nonetheless moved a Mughal emperor to declaim, ‘if on earth there be paradise of bliss, it is this, it is this, it is this . . .’? How does one gauge a culture which elevated non-violence to an effective moral principle, but whose freedom was born in blood and whose independence still soaks in it? How does one explain a land where peasant organizations and suspicious officials once attempted to close down Kentucky Fried Chicken as a threat to the nation, where a former prime minister once bitterly criticized the sale of Pepsi-Cola ‘in a country where villagers don’t have clean drinking water’, and which yet invents more sophisticated software for the planet’s computer manufacturers than any other country in the world? How can one determine the future of an ageless civilization that was the birthplace of four major religions, a dozen different traditions of classical dance, eighty-five major political parties and 300 ways of cooking potato?
The short answer is that it can’t be done, at least not to everyone’s satisfaction. Any truism about India can be immediately contradicted by another truism about India. It is often jokingly said that ‘anything you can say about India, the opposite is also true’. The country’s national motto, emblazoned on its governmental crest, is ‘Satyameva Jayate’: Truth Alone Triumphs. The question remains, however, whose truth? It is a question to which there are at least a billion answers, if the last census hasn’t undercounted us again.
But that sort of an answer is no answer at all, and so another answer to those questions has to be sought. And this may lie in a simple insight: the singular thing about India is that you can only speak of it in the plural. There are, in the hackneyed phrase, many Indias. Everything exists in countless variants. There is no single standard, no fixed stereotype, no ‘one way’. This pluralism is acknowledged in the way India arranges its own affairs: all groups, faiths, tastes and ideologies survive and contend for their place in the sun. At a time when most developing countries opted for authoritarian models of government to promote nation building and to direct development, India chose to be a multiparty democracy. And despite many stresses and strains, including twenty-two months of autocratic rule during the 1975 Emergency, a multiparty democracy—freewheeling, rumbustious, corrupt and inefficient, perhaps, but nonetheless flourishing—India has remained.
One result is that India strikes many as maddening, chaotic, inefficient and seemingly ‘unpurposeful’ as it muddles its way through the second decade of the twenty-first century. Another, though, is that India is not just a country, it is an adventure, one in which all avenues are open and everything is possible. ‘India,’ wrote the British historian E.P. Thompson, ‘is perhaps the most important country for the future of the world. All the convergent influences of the world run through this society . . . There is not a thought that is being thought in the West or East that is not active in some Indian mind.’
Just as well a Brit said that, and not an Indian! That Indian mind has been shaped by remarkably diverse forces: ancient Hindu tradition, myth and scripture; the impact of Islam and Christianity; and two centuries of British colonial rule. The result is unique. Many observers have been astonished by India’s survival as a pluralist state. But India could hardly have survived as anything else. Pluralism is a reality that emerges from the very nature of the country; it is a choice made inevitable by India’s geography and reaffirmed by its history.
Pluralism and inclusiveness have long marked the idea of India. India’s is a civilization that, over millennia, has offered refuge and, more importantly, religious and cultural freedom to Jews, Parsis, several varieties of Christians and, of course, Muslims. Jews came to Kerala centuries before Christ, with the destruction of their First Temple by the Babylonians, and they knew no persecution on Indian soil until the Portuguese arrived in the sixteenth century to inflict it. Christianity arrived on Indian soil with St Thomas the Apostle (Doubting Thomas), who came to the Kerala coast some time before 52 ce and was welcomed on shore by a flute-playing Jewish girl. He made many converts, so there are Indians today whose ancestors were Christian well before any Europeans discovered Christianity. In Kerala, where Islam came through traders, travellers and missionaries rather than by the sword, the Zamorin of Calicut was so impressed by the seafaring skills of this community that he issued a decree obliging each fisherman’s family to bring up one son as a Muslim to man his all-Muslim navy! This is India, a land whose heritage of diversity means that in the Kolkata neighbourhood where I lived during my high school years, the wail of the muezzin calling the Islamic faithful to prayer routinely blends with the chant of mantras and the tinkling of bells at the local Shiva temple, accompanied by the Sikh gurdwara’s reading of verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, with St Paul’s cathedral just round the corner.

Penguin Fever Schedule

It’s that time of the year again but this time it’s under the autumn sky. Six days of literature extravaganza is going to start from October 26, with numerous literary icons as panelists.
Here are the dates you should mark on your calendar.
October 26, 7PM: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy in conversation with Shohini Ghosh
October 27, 7PM: Zara sa jhoom loo main – Shobhaa De on turning seventy – and having a blast! In conversation with Vidya Balan. Sonia Singh to moderate
October 28, 5PM: Inconvenient Truths: Are we heading for an environmental disaster – Sunita Narain, Prerna Bindra, and Pradip Krishen
October 28, 7PM: The Heart of the Matter – Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Datta, and Sudeep Nagarkar in conversation with RJ Ginnie
October 29, 5PM: The Man from the Hills – Ruskin Bond on life, writing, and his love for lemon cheesecake!
October 29, 7PM: Criminal Minds – Brijesh Singh, Ravi Subramanian, Novoneel Chakraborty. Poonam Saxena will moderate the session
October 30, 7PM: The Line of Beauty – Perumal Murugan, Kannan Sundaram, Bibek Debroy, Rana Safvi, Namita Gokhale as moderator
October 31, 7PM: The Rise of the Elephant – Shashi Tharoor, Gurcharan Das, Sonu Bhasin, Shireen Bhan as moderator
Open Air Library: October 26–31, 11AM onwards
If you haven’t already, register for the Penguin Fever here:
See you there!

Flashback 2016: 5 Kickass Moments from JLF ’16

One of the most iconic literary festivals in the country kicked off today with a mesmerising keynote address by Gulzar. There are fascinating sessions lined up at the event, and the atmosphere is filled with energy as readers and writers from across regions gather to celebrate love for and of books.
As we gear up for the talks and discussions that are in the offing, we look back at last year’s edition, and we bring to you five bright moments that will make you want to attend the festival this year!
When Margaret Atwood talked about ‘The Global Novel’
Chiki Sarkar started the session by asking the authors – Colm Toibin, Aleksander Hemon, David Grossman, Sulaiman Addonia, Sunjeev Sahota, and of course Atwood – when and how did the novel form become the popular form of literature?
Gulzar’s talk broke records – literally!
Looking back fondly in a self-confessed nostalgia towards the world around him, the great poet moved the audience with prose after prose. The audience was so involved that neither the chatter of young children nor the constant trickle of people at the outskirts of the arena could distract a soul.
“What makes South Asians laugh?”
In a roller-coaster ride full of laughter and comic relief, Sidin Vadukut, Meera Syal and Suhel Seth took us back to an innocent age – an age where the word ‘tension’ was not part of our vocabulary, an age where we could just enjoy wit without worrying about its ramifications.
Eating Books – A Cosmopolitan Cuisine: Anjum Hasan and Nilanjana Roy in conversation with Jerry Pinto
The talk revolved around what it means to write about literature and who are writers and what they are writing about today.
On the British Empire: Tristram Hunt and Shashi Tharoor, moderated by Swapan Dasgupta
The session started off with a definition of imperialism and moved on to its growth with differing opinions on it. Shashi Tharoor was at his delightful best!
Incarnations, Reincarnations: Sunil Khilnani in conversation with William Dalrymple
The session, headed by Sunil Khilnani and William Dalrymple, was about Khilnani’s book ‘Incarnations: India in 50 Lives’. The landmark book puts together the stories of some of the most iconic Indians who made a difference.
We hope these stories from JLF ’16 motivated you to head out and attend JLF ’17. See you there!

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