Devdutt Patnaik’s “My Gita”

Book: My Gita

Author: Devdutt Patnaik

Publishers: Rupa Publications

Genre: Non fiction/ philosophy

My GitaDevdutt Patnaik is a master story-teller no doubt. He narrates mythological stories in easy and simple to understand words with apt and crisp illustrations along with the text. The two books “Jaya” and “Sita” that I read, showcase his amusing takes on mythological stories.

With a limited knowledge of Gita and its verses, I wanted to read Devdutt Patnaik’s  version. I finally could lay my hands on his recent offering “My Gita”. After reading the first few pages I realised that keeping in mind to not ruffle any feathers of vigilante moral brigade of the country, he has titled the book as “My Gita” and reasoned that it is not the translation of much revered original text but his understanding of the most popular book of Hindus. “Let my Gita inform your Gita” he says.

He has attempted to simplify by not writing it in sequence as the original book but has reorganised it according to themes. The book is divided into eighteen themes like the concept of rebirth (Atma), our deeds and their reaction (Karma), our conduct (Dharma) similar to the eighteen chapters of The Gita. The book also has a brief history to understand the timeline when the original text was written. Citing examples from other beliefs and faiths, namely Jainism and Buddhism, the author has brought out difference in meaning of words like soul and atma, moksha and nirvana.

The Abrahmic and Greek concepts have also been cross-referenced throughout to emphasise on different thought processes like the concept of rebirth and gaining knowledge rather than changing the world and placing one’s value in the achievements of the lifetime.

I, for one, had a peek within. I learnt that my “fear of losing opportunities, fear of achievement, fear of abandonment is all because of lack of conceptual clarity” I need to believe in myself and have more faith and realize that I too make the world meaningful, then I could be free of all worries because lack of faith results in hopelessness and rage…..That I can only control what I do but not other person’s reaction to my action or the outcome of my efforts and I must just act to best of my capabilities without expectations… nishkama karma.

Author has paraphrased the verses in simpler words to let each person understand as per his or her own capacity.  So in a way Devdutt Patnaik’s Gita has managed to inform ‘my’ Gita.

Though author has tried best to simplify, but the book is not an ordinary read to breeze through. With lot of philosophy involved, at times I got little confused and my attention was lost and that is the reason that the book needs to be understood in an un-hurried way. Those who have read the original verses of the The Gita may not completely agree with the author’s ideas.

Though I find it easier and faster to read stories in English but somehow for this book I wished it was in native language Hindi to feel closer to and understand the words deha, atma, samvad, vivad, yoga, viyog, dharma etc.

And yet I would read this book again at much slower pace to understand author’s viewpoint properly.

Bhima: The Man in Shadows by Vikas Singh

Book: Bhima

Author: Vikas Singh

Publisher: Westland Limited

BhimaI have grown up listening to the tales of Mahabharata, read Amar Chitra Katha books on various characters of Mahabharat and have even seen the mega serial on the same, directed and produced by BR Chopra with the faces of actors still etched in mind.

When WritersMelon sent me the book for review I was eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Having read the Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant, Jaya by Devdutta Patnaik and Ajay, The roll of Dice by Anand Neelkanthan, I was expecting this story in similar vein with great characterisation and detailed narration of various events.

The Epic story of Mahabharata has a plethora of characters, each with a story of its own. Each character of the story is capable of telling and retelling the story from his or her own perspective.

Author Vikas Singh chooses to be the voice of Bhima, one of the Pandavas. In this short volume, Bhima is the solo narrator who voices his view in a sort of monologue. Vikas has wanted to portray Bhima’s feelings for Draupadi. The story weaves Bhima’s passion towards his shared wife into all events since the day of swayamvara till the great war and final journey towards heaven.

I liked the way author has attempted to impart some life lessons with the help of events like Bhima’s meeting with Hanuman, . When Bhima meets his half-brother Hanuman, he is taught the importance of humility…

There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is good, arrogance can prove fatal.

When Arjun returns with new wife Subhadra, Bhima consoles and advises Draupadi…

“We can’t  force someone else to feel particular way about us… You can choose to be resentful…Or be grateful that the person is a part of your life”

However, the story nowhere highlights Bhima’s virtues properly. From the beginning of the story it looks as Bhima has broken into a tirade against all people around him. He laments how his mother was always biased towards his younger brother, how his teacher was always partial to Arjuna, how his wife who is also the wife of all brothers pines only for Arjun and even in the most passionate moments imagines she is with his younger sibling, how Devas keep on beckoning Arjun, how women are almost always attracted to Arjuna, how he never gets credit for the wars he has fought and so on..

Vikas Singh has made Bhima look like one who keeps harping about all his exploits at various situations himself and is always jealous. If he was aiming to bring out his virtues, I haven’t been convinced. Instead I feel Bhima is resentful, jealous and always complaining… a sign of an under-confident person.

I found the passionate episodes in the story very undesirable. The brothers are shown discussing their personal post-marriage first-night experiences which is very racy and like the juvenile jokes.

Bhima was never in shadows….he was considered the most powerful….most of his exploits and adventures are known to many. He was not under-confident even or else he would have succumbed to his own flaws.

The fact that there is so much information about the various events is proof itself that Bhima was never in shadows. I feel the great warrior has been wronged in this story. I am hugely disappointed with the book.

The story is good for readers who are interested in reading a juicy racy story without much details of history and mythology.

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