Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Difficulty of Being Good: Book Review



            Having being born and brought up in Hindu family, epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana are not new to my noesis. We grow admist the stories of five pandavas and their friend Krishna and the princely Kauravas. The perception also grew within for the pandavas to be the good ones whereas the Kauravas were the one who were forged since childhood. Having read the book the long adjudged percept of good and evil juddered having me think earnestly on what actually is good and am I anywhere close to being one.

            I have admired Gurucharan Das in various arenas and his mythos and manners of presenting his view point whether it is the present book or the previous ones. The dynamic pitch keeps one glued and interested in the book till the last page. This book was special as the coherences of anecdotes from current times make believes that history does repeat itself and if things keenly understood, many errs could have been annulled. 

            Duryodhana’s Envy towards the prosperity of his cousin’s pandavas has always been resolved as the primary reason for Mahabharata; but it is very intelligibly clarified by the author in first chapter that, it’s a Kshatriya man’s supreme obligation towards his social class to be envious and it is then only that he prevails, expands and flourishes, so does his kingdom. The envy is explained to be of two forms: eternal sickness and healthy competitiveness; excused through the example of Ambani Brothers and their success.

            The grounds for Mahabaharata were laid on the Draupadi’s chagrin when she was dragged to the royal court in single cloth and was attempted to disrobe. With the respectable Bhishma, Dhritrasthtra, Drona, Vidur, even Pandavas found themselves incapacitated to respond to her cries for help. Paanchali questions the mighty warriors that what is Dharma of the king; witnessing the most unfortunate event and not being able to end the misdeed. It is then when Bhisma altered “Dharma to be subtle”. It is when the sva dharma and sadharan dharma is navigated through.

            When quoted time again that Pandavas were the good mortals, why was so that they faced the most hardships and deceived by the Kauravas; what good being good was for them? This question is asked by Draupati to the Yudhishthir, to which the presumption made was that a person should act or follow Dharma not because it yields something but because its ones duty to act.  

            There are divergences in the characters of Mahabharata and their dilemmas; Arjuna, the great warrior in the beginning of Kurkshetra was grief stricken to fight with and kill his own brothers and loved ones. When told about the dissembled and lured into the thought of getting heaven he is unmoved; it is then when he was dashed by the god form of Krishna into thinking that one should be intent on their action and not on the fruits of action.

            Bhishma’s selflessness is discussed in the book through the time takes the vow of celibacy for his father’s marriage to Satyavati, to him acting as tutelary for the empire throughout his lifetime, even at his deathbed he represented himself to be the most impudent for the Kuru dynasty by explaining the final words of wisdom to bereaved Yudhishthir. He projects out to be the most significant mortal in history of time. But him being selfless made the Kuru phratry pay a huge price in terms of kurukshetra. The final question remains does selflessness too bespeaks selfishness in so many ways?

            Similar misfortune is observed in the Karna’s fate, he being the most deserved in the Kuru clan, falls pray of whimsy like inequality, caste, fidelity and even generosity. Author equated the scenario with existent caste system in India quoting Eklavya. Justifying the reservation policy’s existence and the disastrous end that it came to.

            Having understood the Kurukshetra war was already a rigged affair; as Krishna’s explanations are delivered to the befuddled Arjuna on the war front about being the medium accomplishing purpose of being. The didactics of manipulations, untold truths and partial lies are the way Krishna led Pandavas to wining path. Krishna has been called a cynic, who preaches the highest moralities and stoops to practice the lowest tricks.

            The book deals with regrets and remorse at the end of the war individually in forms of Ashwatthama and Yudhishthir. Both are brokenhearted in the ending days of the war, ashwatthama because he did not expect the level of adulterous act to win the war by Pandvas, whom he and his father were in favour of since beginning but were duty bound towards Kauravas. But in case of Yudhishthir he is truly and unfeignedly suffering from isolating and difficult to console frustration. This made Yudhishthir chose the pursuit of justice and the avowedly role of a kind towards his kingdom and mortals.

            In this uneven world this book takes us to the very different dimension of the great epic, teaches the subtlety of dharma, and nishkaam karma. The analysis of the view points of the personas in Mahabharata. The cause of the war, people who are entwined in it and later the uncovering of the truth, they being mere medium to achieve the concluding outcome- the ultimate balance of universe. The book successfully defines the middle path of Mahabharata grounded in enlightened self-interest with pragmatic, upright statesmen like Bhishma and Krishna, who have responsibility of running a state, should follow. In the world of power politics, the dharma of a person cannot follow moral perfection; hence the subtleness of Dharma comes to being. The very first quote of the book delimitates it altogether:
“What is here is found elsewhere
What is not here is nowhere.”
            
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