Stories can be both entertaining and educative. They can also be insightful and illuminating, especially when they have travelled down the generations, through the centuries, taking on and eliding new meanings with each retelling. In this genre-bending book, the first of a series, Amish and Bhavna dive into the priceless treasure trove of the ancient Indian epics, as well as the vast and complex universe of Amish’s Meluha (through his Shiva Trilogy and Ram Chandra Series), to explore some of the key concepts of Indian philosophy.
What is the ideal interplay between thought and action, taking and giving, self-love and sacrifice? How can we tell right from wrong? What can we do to bring out the best in ourselves, and to live a life with purpose and meaning, not just one fuelled by the ego and material needs? The answers lie in these simple and wise interpretations of our favourite stories by a lovable cast of fictional characters who you’ll enjoy getting to know.
AMISH is a 1974-born, IIM (Kolkata)-educated, boring banker turned happy author. The success of his debut book, The Immortals of Meluha (Book 1 of the Shiva Trilogy), encouraged him to give up a fourteen-year-old career in financial services to focus on writing. He is passionate about history, mythology and philosophy, finding beauty and meaning in all world religions. Amish's books have sold more than 5.5 million copies and have been translated into over 19 languages.
BHAVNA ROY was educated in Mussoorie, Pune and Mumbai. After graduating in psychology from Mumbai University, she worked first as a volunteer in a school for special children in Malegaon, and later in an NGO in Nashik called SOS. She is the wife of the late Himanshu Roy, IPS, senior police officer of the Maharashtra cadre. She lives in Mumbai.
Both of us, brother and sister, had a unique privilege in our upbringing. We were,immersed in two worlds.
The first was Bharat, this blessed land whose ancient roots sink deep and from which we seek inspiration. We were raised in a deeply traditional household steeped in our culture, religion (primarily Hinduism, but also Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), scriptures and rituals. Our paternal grandfather, Pandit Babulal Sunderlal Tripathi, was a Sanskrit scholar who taught math and physics in Kashi, at the Banaras Hindu University. Our maternal grandmother, Smt. Shankar Devi Mishra, was a teacher in Gwalior and also a scholar of scripture and tradition. The long shadows cast by these two remarkable individuals continue to influence our family. They keep us rooted.
There was also another influence, of India, a land playing catch up with the world, with modernity and Western-style liberalism, in pursuit of which it often imitated the UK, and later the USA. Our parents were raised in a Hindi-speaking milieu, both at home and in school. And they suffered for it. Lack of proficiency in English was a debilitating limitation in getting good jobs and achieving career progression, especially in an economy laid waste by socialist policies. Our parents decided that their children would not endure what they had. We are four siblings, and we were all packed off to the most elite educational institutions of the time. It was a stretch, since it was way beyond their social and economic means. However, our mother was determined, as she said, to ensure that her children grew up around the angrezi-waalas, so that we would not ever be intimidated by them. It was especially important to her that her children succeed in this new world.
Thanks to our education in elite boarding and day schools, we grew up with an insider's view of the anglicised India of the time. It had its strengths. It had its beauty. It certainly had panache. But there was a subtle denigration of the Hindu way of life, which often angered us. We kept quiet though, as our mother had advised us to. She would often quote Lord Krishna to us, and one of the lessons we learnt from the Lord was: `Pick your battles with wisdom. Fight from a position of strength.' She also exhorted us to recognise that there is something to be learnt from everyone and everything, even from those who denigrate your way of life.
So we learnt to straddle the two worlds. Shakespeare in school, Kalidasa at home. George Bernard Shaw in school, Mahabharata and Ramayana at home. Johann Sebastian Bach in school, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi at home. The Bible in school, the Gita and the Upanishads at home. The Beatles and Lata Mangeshkar, both at school and home! We boisterously lived the Western life in school and fervently practised our rituals at home. Our education prepared us for life in the modern world but taught us almost nothing of our own traditions. These, we learnt at home. From our elders, who kept the flame of our ancient culture alive within us.
India is the only surviving pre-Bronze Age civilisation; we are still vibrantly alive. Every other pre-Bronze Age civilisation is dead, existing only as lifeless shells within the walls of museums and academia today. Our ancestors protected and kept alive that which is most precious: our culture. Often, they did so by fighting off brutal foreign invaders. Most importantly, they passed the flame forward. From generation to generation. In an unbroken chain. We too must pass the torch forward. To the next generation.
We recall reading somewhere: 'Traditions are not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.'
This book is the first of many in which we reflect upon and discuss different facets of the Indian culture. Some we can learn from, some we can adapt, and some we must let go of.
We have not followed the usual, modern style of non-fiction books, which are built upon a hypothesis and then backed up with references to support that hypothesis. This style, we believe, leads to adversarial tribalism, even among scholars. This is evident in debates in which scholars often strive to prove loyalty to 'their tribe' and attack those on the opposite side, instead of honestly seeking the truth with an open mind. These debates generate more heat than light.
We have followed the ancient Indian Upanishadic style of conversations which present different views, even contrarian views. We have tried our best to not make the lessons we draw from these prescriptive, only suggestive. For you must make up your own mind.
You might ask, why dharma? Don't we understand the concept by now? But dharma is quite the Scarlet Pimpernel among words. Difficult to pin down, it is invisible to the eye and confounding in the extreme. Shift the definition just a little, and it slides into another meaning. Yet, it is the universe within which Indian philosophy nestles.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Children’s Books (39)
Brahma Sutras (86)
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