Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let’s Do It the Chanakya Way

When I think about Chanakya, I think about the ordinary teacher from Takshashila, who could dare dream to bring good governance to his kingdom and fulfill it by playing a pivotal role in dethroning the then cruel ruler of Magadh “Dhana Nanda”. Many a times, we jump into the conclusion that Chanakya took revenge from the king as he was humiliated in his court and was thrown out of the palace, being pulled by his hair. When we meticulously research about Chanakya who was also know as Vishnugupt, we come to know the bigger picture and the foresight that this wise Brahmin had. He never gave much importance to his personal interest. His determination to replace Nanda with a deserving candidate as the king of Magadh had taken the shape of a vow when he realized that one who tortures his subjects merely to get more revenue, without caring about the security of united India, must not continue as the ruler of a kingdom. One teacher of his stature taking such a vow provided the courtiers with enough reason to laugh at this farcical move. However, the way Chanakya strategized to get this almost-impossible goal achieved is what made him a character of the history to be studied again and again.

Chanakya proved that no matter how much animosity you have with each other within the country, it is always a priority to deal with the foreign invaders. In this context he says when there are too many problems in your family, you should sort out the biggest one first. Following this principle, he sidelined his vow for years and concentrated on pushing Egyptian invader Alexander back to his country. He knew that it was impossible to unite the whole of India by simply dethroning Nanda when the security of the nation was already threatened by an alien invader. 

For ease of study, we can analyze the three pivotal roles played by Chanakya in order to prevent India from getting ruined by unfaithful rulers: one – in dethroning a cruel, unorganized, spendthrift ruler like Dhana Nanda; two – in uniting the whole of India and making it a far more powerful nation; three – in discovering and mentoring an able ruler like Chandragupt.

Even when we take it on a personal reference, the first segment teaches us that we should always identify and uproot the negativity in our inner self to remain strong; the second segment proves that unity shows strength; the third segment says we should always choose proper mediums to fulfill our dreams and to secure our fulfillment as well.

These days when we say we idealize Gandhiji, it becomes obvious that we follow non-violence. However, with disregard to all the above insights, when we say we idealize Chanakya, there is always a chance of being comprehended that we are trying to be diplomatic to get our ends achieved. When we read a book or a story written centuries ago, the first question that comes to our mind is that whether there is any relevance of the learning in today’s context. I can’t say about other books or teachings, but Chanakya’s principles (popularly known as Chanakyaneeti) definitely have the potential to bring many positive changes in the field of politics and in many other environments if applied constructively. Study of Chanakya makes you brave enough to dream what is impossible to fulfill and remain determined throughout while playing the best cards in the wittiest way. However, the most important part of the story is that you must have a selfless dream - something which is for the public interest more than just remaining a personal desire.      

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Need to Reward the Honest before Punishing the Corrupt

“Stop”, said the traffic police raising his right hand. The command was followed by a sudden brake applied to the rickshaw, disturbing me while I was trying hard to understand the complicated writing of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. “Park it in the left side”, continued the officer. “Show me your license.” While the rickshaw driver nervously opened a box to look for his license, I understood that I was going to be even more late for office as the man sitting in the front driver’s seat has ignored the traffic signals and was going to be penalized.

Meanwhile, there was a conversation going on between another rickshaw driver and the officer. “Saheb, tumhi Patil Sahebla olakta ka? To majha mitr ahe.  (Sir, you know Mr. Patil. He is a friend.)” – “Tar kay? To majha saheb ahe kay? (So what? Is he my boss?)”  “Nahi. Mi tar asach..( No, sir. I was just..)”, said the guy in the khakhi displaying an ear-to-ear smile on his frustrated face. As the officer was making a challan, the driver offered him a folded fifty rupee currency note.  To my surprise, I was not surprised to see the auto driver offering a bribe to the traffic officer, but what surprised me was that the officer refused to accept the bribe and asked for hundred rupees while showing him the challan with an assertive tone. Disappointed, the autorickshaw driver gave him a hundred rupee note and took its receipt. This way, the ethic of the man in white uniform overshadowed the unethical practice of the man in khakhi.

Kudos to this officer. There was nobody in the vicinity. Nobody could have caught him if he had received the bribe and added 50 rupees more to his salary. But there is something called “self-esteem”, proved the officer. I don’t know whether he gets any rewards from his department for his honesty and whether any punishment the corrupt officers get or not. But before the later, I definitely would love to know the earlier which is, I think, more important at a time when ALMOST EVERYONE is vulnerable to corruption.

This is a very good thing to know today when saints are forced to fast in order to fight against corruption and the opposition party is no more gheraoing the government over the issue of corruption. How could they? The majority will be behind the bars in that case. Many of their own people will also end up in the dock.

To fight the battle of honesty with yourself and with others, the present time is truly very challenging when rate for everything is fixed, as they say everyone has their price. One tea and two biscuits for marking your attendance for the bunked college classes; 50 rupees for ignoring the traffic rules; 400 rupees for getting your investigation done for a passport application. So on and so more. These are all open secrets.

At this juncture, when we are waiting for the Lokpal Bill to be passed in the parliament, we should not ignore those who have remained honest even in these critical conditions. It is highly important to reward them, appreciate them, and highlight them to be idealised even before claiming punishment for the guilty.   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Art that will Die Because of Bathrooms

It’s a hot afternoon. 1:30 PM, June 5. After riding my bicycle for about 2 kilometres in my hometown Berhampur, I was stranded on a ‘no men’ road. Two kilometres away from my destination, I was already thirsty and exhausted. It was as if my legs were expressing their unwillingness to push the paddles. Suddenly, my eyes fell on the far-away borewell that was at a distance about 100 meters. Licking my upper lips with an eye of hope, I headed towards my immediate destination being lured by a desire to drink some water and sprinkle some on both my face and head for relief. However, destiny had it something else. One village woman was taking her bath at the borewell. How could I go near the woman when she was taking her bath? Hesitation would have arisen only when I had two options – to go or not to go. Here, there was only one – a straight “No”.

The more I got closer to the borewell, the more I concentrated on the droplets falling from the face of the borewell into the vessel that the woman had kept for storing water. After a point, my focus shifted from the water to the woman. Aged between 20 and 25, she seemed amazingly beautiful. Reaching uptil her waist, her hair was even more accentuating her back when it was wet. However, these were not the characteristics that forced me to stare at the woman continuously for a couple of minutes. Actually, I was surprised to see the way she managed to wear the cotton sari without giving a single chance to expose her body beyond the limits of decency. When I was at the closest distance, she was already done with bathing. She squeezed her sari from one end, tied that end around her waist while untying the other end and then squeezed the other end and put it on to cover her upper half. Thanks to my goggle. I could see the entire act without any hesitation. No obscenity, no nudity, and no skin show at all!

What an art to wear a wet sari in open?! It seemed like a flawless rhythmic poetry to me. At first, I thought why that lady was taking bath in open. She should not be doing that. Post my tryst with that entire scene, I would say it was not wrong. I think she had no doubt that I was observing her, but still she was not uncomfortable. This level of comfortness might have come from her supreme confidence on the art.

Neither thirst nor tiredness could dominate me after that. I took 15 more minutes to reach my destination while thinking if this exceptional art will die once everyone will get to take bath in bathrooms. Just a trivial thought!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One of the Many Lessons Learnt from Mythology

“Goddess Lakshmi and Shanidev once fought over the 'superiority' issue. Both considered themselves to be superior than the other. When nobody seemed to be accepting the other’s supremacy, they thought of approaching Lord Vishnu to solve the matter. However, Lord Vishnu disappointed them saying, “Lord Shankar would be the right person to decide this.” So, both the judgement-seekers approached Lord Shankar, but only to hear from Him that Lord Brahma would be the right person for this.

Following Lord Shankar’s advice, when Goddess Lakshmi and Shanidev were on their way to meet Lord Brahma, they saw Naradmuni who asked them where they were going to. After knowing the reason,  Naradmuni told both of them that he could sort out the issue then and there and they did not need to trouble Lord Brahma for this purpose. Both the Lords were very happy to know this. They asked how the issue was going to be sorted out.

Naradmuni pointed at a distance and asked both Goddess Lakshmi and Shanidev to walk till that point and then to come back. Both of them, with a question mark on their faces, followed the instruction. When they came back, Naradmuni said that he came to a conclusion that both the Lords were equal in status – nobody is superior and nobody is inferior. How? He explained, Goddess Lakshmi is great when She comes in and Shanidev is great when He departs.

The issue was solved. Both Goddess Lakshmi and Shanidev were exhilarated to hear the decision. They left for their respective destinations happily after thanking Naradmuni for sorting it out.”

The above story was shown in one of the episodes of a mythological TV show several years ago. I was spellbound to know how a complex issue like this could be solved diplomatically, so easily. Certainly a very big clash could be avoided by Naradmuni who handled it very tactically and smartly. I must say that episode of the TV show inspired me a lot and encouraged me to give a very different approach whenever there is a problem with friends or among friends.

Not only this episode, there are many things we can learn from history and mythology. Many of these teachings are still applicable in today’s world. We just need to refer to the correct parallel situation to get inspiration from.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It Takes a Generation

Long time back, when I was merely 9 years old, studying in fourth standard, my teacher asked me to write an essay on the dowry system. I didn’t know the meaning of Dowry System. So I copied from an essay book, without understanding any meaning. But, some text remained somewhere in the back of my mind. I went home and recollected everything I remembered. Then, I asked my mother, “How much did you bring in dowry?” “500 rupees”, she said. At the time of my mother’s marriage, this amount must be more than one full year’s income of my maternal grandfather who was the sole earning member of the family.

Me: “This is so bad.”

Mother: “I don’t think so.”

Me: “Why should your father give so much of his hard-earned money in the occasion of your marriage?”

Mother: “No worries. I had two brothers. So my family recovered that money and even received more than that from the families of both my sisters-in-law.”

Me: “This is disastrous.”

Though I had copied the essay from the book, I had decided that I would never copy this norm from the society.

20 years have passed. I am yet to convince my family that it is really disastrous. I have realized that even though it is a very positive change, it’s very difficult to bring that in the already grown-ups. Every time, I get an occasion to discuss on the topic, I simply say, “I wish your teacher had asked you to write an essay on Dowry System in your primary school.”

Essay is merely one example; many things that happen in our childhood do have a lasting impression on us. The movies that we watch, the stage shows, the rituals, the happenings in our neighbourhood, and all that we see for the first time in life can hardly be forgotten. So it’s very important for us to experience that in a correct manner so that it can bring a very positive change and help us build a very effective character. My point is, right experience builds effective character, effective character builds wonderful citizens, and wonderful citizens build a wonderful nation. And for this purpose, the necessity is to sow the seeds of righteousness right from the beginning. Because, it almost takes a generation!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Change is bound to happen, when they say

I retract myself from their way, the usual way

Nothing wrong in the statement though

Nothing new in it, nothing more to know

Friends are forever, when they say

I retract myself from their way, the usual way

Nothing wrong in the statement though

Nothing new in it, nothing more to know

If ever I’ll follow the general norm

You will give me dowry, will say ‘no harm’

If ever I’ll follow the general rules

You will lead me to the path of numerous fools

So sans a thought, why to give it a high-five?

Well, am no more rustic, no more naive!