Ziya Us Salam’s book, ‘365 Tales from Islam’, (published by Om Books International) for children is a treasure trove of fascinating reads. A supposedly closed window is opened and 365 stories tumble out one by one giving meaning to the different facets of Islam.
Assalam-u-aliakum! (A greeting or salutation in Islam meaning peace).
The Muslims believe that Adam was the first prophet sent to earth by Allah and Prophet Mohammad was the last to whom the revelations of the Quran in Arabic (foundation of Islamic faith) were revealed bit by bit in parts during his lifetime. The Quran mentions that Isa (Jesus Christ) was one of the last Israeli prophets and a healer and talks about Musa(Moses) to whom the scriptures were revealed ,a criteria on how people should lead a happy, content and harmonious life. There are 114 Surah’s (verses) in the Quran and Muslims should read them regularly. Insights are offered as to why preference should be given to education and all children whether a boy or girl should be welcomed in the family, why the first Athaan/Azaan was called out loud since in the early days there were no watches and people lived far away and hence they needed to be informed about the time for prayers, why performing the wudu/ablution, a hygiene ritual is important for the purity of a Muslim, importance of praying five times a day, observing rituals, fasting and the suhoor meal and so on.
The author, Ziya Us Salam is a noted social and literary commentator and author of many books for adults. He has been associated with The Hindu group for 19 years. In this book, the tales have been simplified so that the language and text is easy to comprehend. Each tale has something special to teach and moral stories of value have been highlighted. All the stories are illustrated and they are colourful and eye catching. Many a times, if the children find the stories difficult to comprehend, the illustrations provide a link.
Om Publications always comes up with appealing and entertaining books for children and 365 Tales from Islam is just that! It is educational and highlights life in ancient era and modern times with funny anecdotes included so that children do not tire while reading or being read too. It is a book to keep, the tales are detailed and we learn so much more about Islam and its teachings.
Title: 365 Tales from Islam
Author: Ziya Us Salam
Genre: Religion and Spirituality
Appropriate for Children 6+ and with Parental Guidance
Publisher: Om Books International, Hardbound
Depressed and anxiety ridden art restorer, Mila is frantically trying to gather her bearings following a brutal assault. A Buddhist nun Pema wills herself to face the illusory nature of the balance she thought she had achieved. Through Atish, her third character, Khanna gives voice to the condition of migrant labour, the education system and religious customs. The intertwining narrative between these three central characters forms the crux of this story. A conversation with Kajoli Khanna revealed her inspiration and writing process for this novel.
Based on deeply personal experiences, Khanna returned to Delhi and was experiencing the symptoms of severe trauma due to a physical assault she had suffered in the mountains. Carrying a burden that needed to be shed when her survival instinct kicked in and guided Khanna towards writing. She unconsciously channelized all those disturbing emotions and released them into a book. She finally zeroed in on a murder mystery based on her terrifying experience and started writing the story of Mila, the art restorer. But it would only form a novella.
Since Mila steps into a spiritual arena Khanna added the destructive effects of negative emotions into the story for a deeper understanding. Thus, Pema the saintly bhikshunni who harbours hatred and a terrible anger, was born. She suited the arena well so intertwining her narrative with Mila’s was invigorating. Her sisters were inspired by the nuns the author personally met at nunneries in Spiti.
However, Khanna still felt that there was something lacking in the story. The character of Atish kept popping in Khanna’s mind, asking for attention. He was obviously inspired by the underprivileged children she worked with and decided to cross the ugly barriers of class and expose the foul nexus of power that lives off the blood and sweat of the underprivileged. He also became the orator and hero through whom Khanna shared her opinions on the conditions of migrant labour, the village education system and religious customs.
Albeit with a satiric humour, Atish is intelligent, well-informed, gutsy and articulate because she wanted to tell the readers that underprivileged children are as capable (if not more), as clever, as talented, as spoilt as kids who go to snooty private schools. Atish’s achievements in the book are those that the author dreams for all her students. His mistakes can be made by any one of us, but his grit and determination, his formidable resilience belongs in the lives of the brave young warriors she has encountered.
An unfavorable experience
Talking about her terrifying experience with a criminal, Khanna shares, “I was in the mountains, working on a project when I was brutally assaulted in the middle of the night. The criminal stayed in my room for 2 maybe 3 hours. It was petrifying. I had two bodyguards following me everywhere but the fear had infiltrated my being and I was forced to return to Delhi. Even there I was terrified the man might track me down because we had reported the incident to the police. He had threatened to kill me if I did. The doubt and the fear, the frustration of having to leave the project unfinished wreaked havoc with my confidence. And I was angry that a criminal was able to dictate the terms by which I lived. This led to feelings of helplessness, despair and eventually bouts of depression. I was experiencing the symptoms of trauma.”
Miraculously, Khanna’s survival instinct arose to guide her towards writing. She began writing the story of Mila who suffered an assault similar to her. Describing the physical details of the incident was traumatic but also it was cathartic. “As I wrote I re-lived the incident, and each time I did that I cleansed myself, a bit at a time, of the grossness of it. Writing became a therapy. I firmly believe my work with the underprivileged helped my recovery. As I worked with the students their levels of confidence began to grow and so did mine. I shared the same sense of satisfaction, of joy and hope as they did. My fears and worries melted away. Years later I came to understand; by benefitting others you benefit yourself and this is what I wanted to illustrate in the book.”
Infused in Mila’s story are these essential formulae required for healing. The author wanted to share these miraculous but simple processes she had experienced with the world. It was a traumatic struggle which ended with a heartening, illuminating outcome. Mila’s tale which began as a murder mystery turned into a story about reinvention and recovery.
A champion for mental health
At a time when social, emotional and psychological problems are prevalent, solutions are needed. This is what Khanna’s book Destiny’s Flowers sets out to provide. One of the main streams running through the novel explores a single sentence the Buddha uttered – WHAT THE MIND CREATES ONLY THE MIND CAN UNDO. This timeless wisdom is illustrated particularly by the stories of the two female protagonists, Mila who is crippled by fear and Pema, a novice who is slave to anger and hatred. Travelling with Pema and Mila through the twists and turns of the tale, the pitfalls and strengths of human emotions emerge, revealing the obstacles we create in our minds and the formula needed to dissolve them. When faced by the labels society thrusts upon us Atish shows us how to live ‘Out of the Box’. Here too it is the manner in which he thinks that turns the spoilt teenager into a wonderful human being. A dose of this book is what all modern minds need. After all, the struggle for freedom from our anxieties is universal.
“I have received an overwhelming response here in the Shimla Hills where I have given two talks on Destiny’s Flowers. In both I have related the book to overcoming trauma, reducing the destructive effects of negative emotions and living in the moment. A novel must speak to the reader (whatever their age) help them find direction or give meaning to life. I certainly hope this is what Destiny’s Flowers will do,” says Khanna.
Changing for the better
When asked if the events in the book will have last impressions on the lives of the characters, she reveals, “They do implement the realizations and changes which will have a lasting impact on their lives. By the middle of the book, events culminate to arrive at exciting and favourable conclusions for all three characters. The flowers of destiny shower their paths making wishes come true and realizations abound. Mila proves to be a catalyst in Pema’s life and later Atish as well. The bhikshunni is granted two boons that help to change her distorted view of the world and make her question the code of conduct she has lived by. Though several factors contribute to Mila’s success her journey is one of self-discovery. Atish makes a major blunder in the Fort of Joji which turns out for the best, aiding Mila (who plays spiritual detective) to ascertain the finer nuances of the philosophy she has discovered. And again, Atish’s reaction to Pema’s mistakes lightens the load of shame and guilt the novice carries. Though epiphanies and tumultuous events alter the lives of all three protagonists throughout, the last chapters are the most poignant and revealing. Both their stories and the characters come to fruition.”
A piece for everyone
The beauty of this book lies in its universal appeal, apart from being above 18 years of age, there is no restriction on whom this story is for. There is something in the novel for every age and audience. From the feedback the author has received, the book has appealed to a variety of people for a variety of reasons. Seasoned readers have called it a seamless page turner, some are taken by the final realizations Mila reaches, others resonate with the adventures of Atish and the journey of Pema and still others by the lyrical language used to create soothing, poignant and passionate scenes, but everyone is struck by the unexpected outcomes that continuously change the direction of the tale.
‘Blessed‘ by author Deepa Agarwal comes as a breath of fresh air. It is a story that will appeal to modern readers – a fictional tale with some magic. It is a fast-paced read where the underdog emerges victorious!
The title ‘Blessed‘ primes the reader’s thoughts to someone with a gift or special power which is the central theme running through the story.
The story unfolds in a poor district, Kote, where girls are forbidden to read or write. The once prosperous kingdom was overthrown by the evil, neighbouring Agyanees. The drama unfolds with the search for a Blessed girl child who will recite the ancient hymns and close the shield of protection. This will restore the kingdom to its previous glory. Is the ‘so called blessing’ really a blessing? Or is it an unwanted burden in the guise of a blessing?
The plot takes many twists and turns which include a jealous brother, traitors, kidnappings, form changing characters and priests with super powers. Despite all the dynamic happenings, what holds appeal is the simplicity of the people, the eventual victory of good over evil and the new world order which makes it possible for girls to receive an education. The book is an admonition to backward cultures which treat women as secondary citizens and do not value education. The illogical nature of this behaviour and need for change comes through in spades.
Would a slightly longer book with more detail be preferable? Definitely! Would more depth to certain characters be appreciated? Surely! Would a better background have elevated the story? Probably! But all these minor aspects fly right out of the window when we find ourselves rooting for the innocent child protagonist, and that is indeed the strength of this novel.
Gardening can be a fulfilling passion, and even more so, when you relish the fruits (or vegetables!) of your hard labour. And, it always helps to have a good friend and guide along the way. New Vegetable Garden Techniques- essential skills and projects for taster healthier crops by Joyce Russell, published by White Lion Publishing, is a book written with the aim of guiding amateur gardeners, and tipping up information for experienced ones.
Learning Vegetable garden techniques from a book can be really easy and practical, if written in an accessible way. This is exactly where Russell’s book scores high. The best part here is the manner in which the information has been organised. There is a deep connect between the pictures and the text, and the many pictures really aid the reader immensely. Several boxed tips and pieces of information make this a very reader-friendly guide.
There are 25 DIY projects in the book. These are illustrated step-by-step. The book is very practical in nature. Each “project” is presented as a recipe, complete with the list of what you need and the method. Handy tips from experience have been boxed.
The range of skills and steps required for growing your own vegetable patch is wide. Right from preparing land (or choosing the right container), to getting the right soil, making compost, taking care of pests, tending to specific plant requirements and so on, there are a gamut of steps. A lot of comprehensive information is presented in a very accessible manner.
The book is also peppered with specific examples of specific plant requirements, again adding to the handiness aspect. I liked the DIY section on making your own basket and growing plants within. Not only can one enjoy the produce, but also have a spectacular design feature. I also found the tips of growing seedlings, micronutrients and so on quite helpful, how to improve your soil and add on to make richer soil,
There are a few really excellent diagrammatic representations which are very handy. For me, the one on soil nutrients was a great ready reckoner in giving me information about my garden soil.
Why not grow your own bucket garden? Plastic buckets make for wonderful containers and they can be moved around easily thanks to the handles. Grow your favourite veggies within! They are also a perfect solution for a children’s garden as they are light and easy to move around.
It is a good idea to use biodegradable containers to grow seedlings. Once the plants are ready to be replanted in larger containers or prepared beds, you could plant out the pots themselves, which in due course will decompose, leaving no waste behind.
This book opened my eyes to an untapped area- using fresh shoots for consuming. By germinating young seeds and using the fresh sprouts you can add immense variety and health to your diet. Microgreens are the way to go!
Keep adding to the soil to provide the right balance of nutrients and drainage that each new crop needs.
Leaves are a free valuable resource for most gardeners. Fallen leaves can be used as mulch, or compost. If you have a mower that powders them, use this to sprinkle the powder on your plants.
Planting different crops in different areas of the garden each year helps to prevent pests and diseases building up in the soil, resulting in healthier plants and harvests.
And if you’re interested in reading more about gardening, “Ground Rules” is a great book to refer to.
Snakes In The Meadows is Ayaz Kohli’s debut novel (published by Rupa Publications) and what a punch it packs! The title aptly summarizes how evil in the form of terrorists comes and destroys the peace of simple locals of a beautiful hilly village who only want to live a decent life. When all is lost they rise up like the proverbial phoenix to obliterate the enemy!
Snakes In the Meadows is a gut-wrenching story of how the locals of a hilly village, Pathri Aali, in India occupied Kashmir are brought to their knees by the mujahideen. As if it is not enough that they are having difficulties surviving in a harsh environment, most of the males of the village have travelled to the Middle East for jobs and the women and children are left to fend for themselves. The mujahideen prey on them mercilessly as if the locals are not humans at all. Some of the scenes where youngsters are assaulted brings tears to one’s eyes.
The men working abroad were kept in the dark lest they return and are killed by the mujahideen. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is an unspeakable crime committed against a child which forces the protagonist, Ashwar, to write a scathing letter to the men asking them to return and fight.
Thus begins the plan to annihilate the mujahideen from the valley. The villagers run from pillar to post to get help in this endeavour. The ignorance and outright refusal to help from certain Government quarters is disheartening. The peripheral characters though help to draw a contrast between the frog-in-the-well outlook of the ongoing activities in Pathri Aali to what is happening in the rest of the country. Also, the personalities and experiences of the other characters enhance the story – be it through their villainous roles, shades of grey or humanity and sacrifices.
Haven’t we all heard about that thing called the inner voice? But, as we traverse through life, it is worth asking ourselves the question – have we suppressed this inner voice? The Code: Awaken the Hidden Wisdom of your Heart is a book that aims to bring back to life this dying flame. The credentials of the writer, Mukta Mahajani, add authenticity and perspective to this book. Published by Jaico Books, this is the book you must read if you want to embark on a journey of introspection. As you navigate the book, you will realise that the answers to your questions are within your heart, and within the intense introspective journey that you will undertake.
What makes The Code a book that is impactful in what it promises to deliver? I think it’s a mix of several factors. The book is divided into seven key sections that talk about seven negative attributes that we need to conquer, such as Ego, Over-Competitiveness, Jealousy, Over expectations, Over ambition, Anger and Procrastination. Within each section there are several stories and examples that drive home the point the author is trying to make. The text is also peppered with quotes from various personalities and thinkers. The key point itself, that is, ‘the code’ is boxed and presented in a very accessible manner.
However, for me the short list of contemplative questions that accompany each point are the mainstay of this book. Each sub-section has a dedicated list of contemplative questions. These are sure to get the reader in introspection mode. A book or a text is useful if one actually manages to internalise the points that are made. By using these questions as an integral part of the narrative, Mahajani is actually encouraging the reader to pause and think before jumping on to the next section. You may just find that a few questions particularly may touch a nerve, and that’s exactly the purpose!
If the purpose of a book is to make the reader think and reflect, this is what these questions set out to do. It is this process that will open you up to your inner voice. Though the book is easy to read and simple, I would recommend taking time and savouring the points and questions before moving on, in order to get full benefit from reading it!
Through a bank of several stories and incidents, the book illustrates how negative attributes work in practice. It also looks at each negative attribute in a multidimensional manner.
At the end of each section there is also a handy checklist, similar to a little test that will objectively tell you where you stand in terms of a specific quality such as ego, tendencies of over expectations and so on.
Mukta’s background has given this book a unique attribute. With an author who speaks on Alternate Dispute Resolution methods, one can expect nothing less! Moreover, she has degrees in psychology, anthropology and Law. Couple this with over two decades of experience, and you have a person who has a really deep and nuanced understanding of human behaviour in all its complexity! This understanding comes across beautifully in The Code, in simple language with great clarity and lucidity. A must-read if you are looking at getting in touch with your core! The Code is all set to guide you!
What book could you possibly “read” to a new-born? The answer- High Contrast books. These are books which have been found to be quite engaging to young eyes.
The reason behind this? Infants have some limitations to their vision. They respond very well to strong black and white patterns. These high contrast patterns help them to focus and concentrate intensely on one stimulus. This is a favourable choice, as compared to being overwhelmed with several stimuli.
Hence, high-contrast geometric patterns work best for babies. How do we know all this? Research by developmental psychologists have illuminated this fact time and again. Dr. Robert Fantz conducted a study in the 1960s where infants looked at selected stimuli through a peephole. He concluded that the eyes of the babies travelled consistently more to a patterned black and white checkerboard as compared to a plain grey visual stimulus.
The rods and cones of the child’s retina are still to mature. Hence, till they are between 6-9 months old, black and white high contrast books or flash cards work really well. There are many things that a baby can do at birth, which is enhanced by exposure or ‘reading’ high contrast books. For example, the baby can see clearly and ‘fix’ its sight or gaze on something that interests it. Repeated exposure increases attention span, leading to a greater stimulation of the brain pathway.
If something appeals to the new-born, it will ‘track’ or follow the object with its eyes. Try this out with high contrast books! Tracking is also quite an important skill. It teaches the child that objects move places but still remain the same. A natural step from here is scanning, when the child tracks a series of objects in his environment.
These high contrast books will be great tools during the first year of your child’s tryst with this world!
Look, Look! By Peter Linenthal is perfect for staring at!
Merry Christmas: A Black and White Baby Book by Adam Harris contains 24 illustrations perfect for newborns. The Christmas theme makes it a good gift as well!
Cluck and Moo by Frida Bing focuses on animal sounds. This makes it quite fascinating for babies!
Baby Animals Black and White by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes gets up and close with eight baby animals. Animal pictures always appeal to babies!
Pictures for Baby: High-Contrast Images to Stimulate Your Baby’s Brain by Lee Larsen has some really whacky images like that of an alien…adds to the fun element!
Hello Baby: Mirror Board Book, A High-Contrast Mirror Book by Roger Priddy works well because of the addition of the mirror on the last page. This can be seen through the peep-holes on all the pages. Just adds to the fun!
“Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter,” goes a popular adage. Yes, history does sing the victor’s song. But thankfully, there are many authors and thinkers who often wonder, what if the story was different if told by another character. There are a few good retellings and reimagining of the Mahabharata. Would the Mahabharata narrative have been any different if Duryodhana narrated the story? I, Duryodhana by Pradeep Govind (published by Om Books International) explores this fascinating angle.
There have been several fictional retellings of the Mahabharata, through different perspectives. What made you choose Duryodhana as your protagonist?
I am of the conviction that history generally tends to favor the victors over time. When you read or listen to the Mahabharata with an unbiased mind that is open to the possibility of the epic being a fantasized narration of real historical events rather than just a creative work of fiction, you will find several areas where you are tempted to raise questions in favour of Duryodhana. Besides, as a character, he is perhaps the only one in the epic who had clarity as to the stand he took. Just about everyone else, be it Radheya, Bheeshma or even Vaasudeva, had their feet in two boats at the same time at some point or the other. The story of the Mahabharata could still have happened without any of the other central characters…but not without Duryodhana.
Take us through the kind of research you undertook in order to write this book.
There was not much conscious, objective research so to speak save for some trivia. Unfortunately, there is no authentic original manuscript available for reference…the one supposedly written down by Lord Ganesha. The Mahabharata has always been a fascinating subject for me and I’ve been exposed to so many versions of the stories and sub plots in it in various formats right from comics, books, translations, online articles and so on and of course not to forget the mega TV serial. They have all been helpful in my work. I’ve also listened to many fascinating discourses and talks on the Mahabharata. There was one particular early morning daily talk show in Malayalam called “Bharatadarshanam” that I was particularly hooked on to. It was conducted by the late Professor Thuravur Vishwambaran and ran for 10 years and over 3000 episodes on Amrita TV.
Do you think the Mahabharata is relevant today? And if yes, how?
The Mahabharata has all time relevance but it depends on how one comprehends the subtle messages embedded in the epic in just about every canto and chapter. It may never be relevant if we read it like we read a magazine on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The reading should be given due gravitas and the words subject to reflection and analysis.
Following from the earlier question, how do you think that the retellings of the Mahabharata from varied points of view are relevant today? Your book is also a part of this highly current upcoming genre of mythological retellings.
This depends on the objective of the retelling. If it is being used to showcase the creative imagination of the author, then its relevance should stay in the literary world. On the other hand, if it is to also evoke some genuine empathy for the character and, thereby bring in a better understanding of the human mind under different circumstances, then that understanding would come to define our responses to people and situations in everyday life and make things better and more acceptable.
The irony of the language and the sharp satire is not lost on the reader! Was this something you were consciously trying to attain?
Was I? Not sure about this…. maybe at some level. But if you’ve noticed it, then it’s satisfying.
Shakuni is a character much loathed and the story makes his role prominent in steering the direction that Duryodhana veers towards. There is a school of thought portraying the war as one between two masterminds- Vasudeva and Shakuni. Do you subscribe to that view?
There are many schools of thought when it comes to the Mahabharata and each convincing in its own right. That is the beauty of this monster of an epic which will throw something new at you every time you read it. Coming to the question on Vasudeva and Shakuni, as much as one could think on those lines about the war, in the 10th chapter of the Gita, Vaasudeva reveals to Arjuna that among the deceitful practices, is the ‘gambling’. So now where does that leave us with respect to his equation with Shakuni?
You have stuck to the details and facts passed on across generations. However, there are occasions when you have given a different version of facts. For example, in the book Duryodhana does not know about the burning of the wax palace. I am curious to know about the strategy you employed. Did you think things through from the point of view of Duryodhana and then kind of imagined what could have occurred?
That’s a very pertinent question and I’m so glad you’ve noticed. I have taken care not to deviate from the traditional narrations unless it appeals to logic. So, the first thing I did was to not consider the Mahabharata as Vyasa’s creation but as his narration of historical incidents. That makes him vulnerable to distorting truth to favour the victors as well. How else could you describe Duryodhana’s braying at the time of his birth and the wise men of court counselling the king to put him to death? When you look at it that way, it gives you the courage and license to question the genuineness of a lot of things narrated. For example, I felt that the accidental burning of a woman and five men in the house of wax and them being mistaken for Kunti and her sons seemed too contrived and convenient a narration to believe. In the march of time, many such things get distorted or brushed under the carpet to suit the victor’s narrative. That is why Duryodhana held on to his life to make sure that he died in the favourable arms of history. (Though eventually that was not the case.)
What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
The Flower Fix- Modern arrangements for a daily dose of nature by Anna Potter (published by White Lion Publishing) is a book with a very clear purpose- to give the reader his or her daily flower fix! I think this is a book that is more about the journey and less about perfection. There is a freedom that makes creating something beautiful a pleasure, and Potter encourages all of us to adopt that free spirit and let nature and its imperfections lead you to create beautiful floral arrangements.
Picasso has famously quoted, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. I think that this is the general spirit that pervades The Flower Fix. Potter offers guidelines on what would make good floral arrangements, and then urges the reader to break these rules!
There are 26 floral-oriented projects in the book, ranging from small simple designs to larger installation projects. There is one thing that is particularly different and striking about the manner in which these floral decor projects are presented in the book. Each project is a ‘recipe’. There is a list of ‘ingredients’, that is, the exact number of flowers and other materials she has used. However, each floral arrangement tells a different story. Some evoke playfulness, curiosity and serenity while others let you go wild!
Each chapter also explains the sources of inspiration that Anna took in order to create the arrangements that she did. As she describes the various arrangements in detail, step by step, she gently weaves in some really practical tips. For example, how can one create a sense of depth in a shallow container? (The answer- using the larger blossoms at the back). A lot of basic skills required to make a floral arrangement are diagrammatically expressed in the latter part of the book.
Any book on floral arrangements must have great pictures. The Flower Fix is also packed with beautiful “Instagramable” images, that are sure to inspire you, as well as lines and quotes that will echo in your mind long after you have read it.
Have fun with flowers and let the intrinsic nature of the flower be your guide.
Think about what emotion you want the arrangement to evoke…or what story you want it to tell.
Let your creativity flow, and let the happy accidents happen!
A large-scale installation with one variety of flower or foliage will create drama.
Don’t underestimate the power of weeds in creating a floral wilderness!
Bright colours often ‘pop’ the best against dark backgrounds. Hence, optimise the corners of the home which have dark backgrounds, with some really bright arrangements.
We all know that Chanakya was a kingmaker, a shrewd strategist and a master at the game of politics and power. What we often fail to grasp is how we can apply his time-tested principles to our lives in the modern times. It is also no secret that his masterpiece, the Arthashastra, contains the most poignant wisdom for leaders. But how can the gems contained therein be applied to our struggles in this time and age? Radhakrishnan Pillai, rightly known to be the man who has brought Chanakya’s wisdom to the modern times, has penned Chanakya and the Art of War for this sole purpose. In fact, he is the author of several books on Chanakya, including one where he presents the teachings of Chanakya to children, and another where he talks presents these evergreen principles in very simple language for the masses, in easy-to-read knowledge capsules.
Wars can be of different types. Today, it can play out in the boardroom, between nations, within complex social structures and even in your own mind!
Chanakya and the Art of War is written in a simple and lucid manner, that is accessible to all readers. First, there are stories and then there are lessons you derive from them. This book starts off with famous stories about Chanakya and the battles he won. The manner in which he contained the undefeatable Alexander The Great is perhaps one of his most famous victories. The book describes and narrates instances from Chanakya’s life to illustrate his principles.
There are references to other great strategists of ancient India such as Lord Krishna, Shivaji, events from the Ramayana, other teachers and of course, the greatest war epic, Mahabharata.
While military warfare is discussed in the book, what i found particularly appealing is the discussion of use of psychology in strategic decision making. The use of psychological principles in war warrants attention. Chanakya also devised the four-fold strategy of war, chronicling the four ways by which wars could be won. There are discussions about games and activities that Chanakya insisted rulers pursue so that their minds were constantly under training. Understandably there is a chapter devoted to Chess, the master game of strategy.
It is also interesting to note Chanakya’s descriptions of different types of conquerors. The discussion of Dharma in this book brings out the fact that while the desire for expanding and conquering is indeed positive, it has to be done keeping ethics at the core. I feel this has great implications for modern businesses and politics as well.
War strategies find application in business and politics quite directly. The reader who really wants to get the most of this book will chew on the thoughts and distill the wisdom in a manner that will be applicable to him.
However, Dr. Radhakrishnan makes decoding the strategies presented in the book even easier through the last chapter that discusses ten principles of Chanakya and how they would help people today in their daily ‘battles ‘! Of course, today, things have changed. The way wars take place are drastically different. Yet, the spirit of strategy remains forever relevant.