Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on 31 March 2016
Radhika said to me few days after she returned from WCF event, “Hey, I got a good book for you, which I bumped into at the Delhi Airport. It is completely in ‘dude’ (youth) language, and you will like it. It is about Gita, and I just read few chapters”. I said, “Cool, what is so cool about it”. She immediately, “Never mind. You will not read any book that I would suggest or bring”. With a partly faking hurtful tone, I said, “Fine. If you believe it so, don’t show it to me”.
However, like any desi wife who wants to do best for her spouse, she walked to me, and gave the book “The Gita – FOR CHILDREN”. I quickly read what’s on the back page, and browsed, few random pages. The book struck my chord somewhere, I have read first 3 chapters until midnight. I told Radhika, I will return it back to her only after I read it completely. Every 10 minutes, I was profusely thanking Radhika for recommending the book to me.
For next 4 evenings / nights (during ‘Holi’ / ‘Good Friday” weekend), I have read through the book, as If a kid was reading Harry Potter. Yes, I never forget the eagerness with which Revanth used to wait and complete Harry Potter books on a single night. Last time (in this decade), I read a book over a single night, was a book by John Grisham and/or a book by Dan Brown. I haven’t really read any book other than that
Roopa Rai’s rendition of Gita, gave me solid clarity on purpose of life, definition of happiness, definition of god, definition of a prayer, and definition of good living, good human being, and more. She used day-to-day examples and events, to explain abstract topics such as “You are not the doer” or “You are it” or “You are the God”. It connected random dots in my head, which were representations of various ideas and beliefs planted by various books, literature, conversations, that I have read over the decades.
I have immediately ordered few additional copies, to give them as a gift to folks around me, and evangelize the need for reading such a lovely / clear presentation of Gita. Though the title of the book says, “The Gita, FOR CHILDREN”, this book is thoroughly enjoyable by almost everyone out there (and specially you)
Structure / Few Highlights of the book:
Starts with story of Mahabharata and the lead characters. It gives the context of the events that lead to the deadliest war in the human history. I have actually learned few interesting data points, which I haven’t learned despite having watched several dozens of movies, sitcoms, reading zillion comic books on Mahabharata (which I am sure most of you did too)
Then it leads us to the confusion of Arjuna on why he needs to go through the pain of killing his friends, uncles, gurus / teachers, and extended family members, to earn back his lost empire. He just wants to give it up as he does not see the need for losing everything and not sure if he will be happy at the end. That’s when the Krishna begins his conversation which is the basis of Gita, and which is considered as holiest conversations in the human history
I have recently read that, our Union culture minister might soon recommend the inclusion of Gita, Mahabharata and the Ramayana in school curriculum. Now, I feel that it is a great move. Given that the book is religion agnostic, it should be adaptable and likeable by everyone.
If you take a look at these lesson that she documents, for each of the 18 chapters from the Gita, you will understand the ease with she explains Gita.
I loved the concept of “Multi Thinking”. Krishna says to Arjuna, “Those who are thinking about me, at the time of the death, will join me”. Then Arjuna says, “That is so difficult. I do not know when I am going to die. How will I know or ensure that I am thinking about you, at the time of the death? Author explains in the simple words, using the concept of “Multi Thinking”, similar to the lines of Multi Processing. She says, simple acts of being in content / gratitude is also same as act of prayer. We just need to practice the art of being content, all the time.
Author does mix a healthy dose of western examples to convey the essence of spirituality. Book is peppered with fun trivia and anecdotes, and interesting parallels, events, and nuggets that actually relate to teaching of the Gita and it’s 700-verse spiritual guide
In one of the examples, author quotes words of physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the team which created the world’s first nuclear weapon during World War II. After the first atom bomb, The Gadget, was tested in the desert of New Mexico, Oppenheimer had explained the mixed feelings of the team in the following words: “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people remained silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form”, and says, ‘Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose, we all felt that, one way or another.” You can hear him on this youtube link[...]
In another example, Pai talks of the importance of endurance by citing JK Rowling’s example, whose Harry Potter was rejected 17 times before it was accepted and went on to become a phenomenon. Coincidentally, JK Rowling had recently published some of the rejection letters on the web. Just google for them. She also uses analogies of The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Rudyard Kipling, too
She uses simple description and explanation to convey the message of Karma Yoga. Example: For instance, don’t expect to top the class just because you studied really hard, or get disappointed when you don’t. In fact, according to the Gita, performing an action (studying) because you want a certain result (to come first) is completely flawed action; the right way is to study simply because that is your work, your duty as a student.
Gita is supposed to be a guide book for enlightenment. To be able to convey its essence for the teens is not an easy task. Roopa Pai had significantly succeeded in this effort. Many techniques are used here to make the style reader friendly. The chapter titles by themselves attract attention. She summarises essence of 18 chapters using simple titles (see below) and super clear explanation. You cannot go wrong with the Gita! A lifetime may not be enough to appreciate fully the Gita, but the sooner one starts, the better. I would consider you as one heck of lucky dude, if you end up reading Gita, and actually persuade, compel, and motivate loved ones (starting with your kids) around you to read it too.