Book Review : The Difficulty of Being Good


This book is on my reading list since couple of months now, managed to finish reading only now.   I gave a lengthy summary of the book to my sister-in-law, but not sure how much of it I can capture in writing.  This book is a heavy read and one of the most practical commentaries of Mahabharata, one of our greatest epics. With the memories of watching the epic on TV every sunday, and the experience of listening to commentary by accomplished telugu pandits, I thought I knew a lot about the epic. Gurucharan Das brings out the basic difference between our epic and all other epics – Unlike the Greek epics,where the hero does something wrong and gets on with it, the action stops in the Mahabharata until every character has weighed in on the moral dilemma from every possible angle. In the indian epic, harmony and happiness come to a society only through behavior based on dharma – that means variously virtue, duty and law, but is chiefly concerned with doing the right thing.

There are 10 chapters in the book, and each chapter deals with a central character, their situations and the decisions they have taken – from Duryodhana, Arjuna to Krishna. The book boldy states at various places that the original version of the epic did not have Krishna in such a godly status as we see today, but was later modified as Krishna started getting more devotees.

What makes this book different is not just a dogmatic representation, but connects the dots between the situations in the epic, to the greek mythology and current social and political situations. It put things in context for reader of any era.

The author tells us why he chose to dwell more and more on this epic, while selecting 5-6 of them to study over a period of 2 years? For this audacious claim of the epic –

What is here is found elsewhere. What is not here is nowhere.

He comments that originally the epic set out to narrate a tale of truimph but, in fact, ended in telling a story of defeat.Seemingly hard questions are answered in a very all-rounded way and I am satisfied with the conclusions Gurucharan comes up as the lessons the epic teaches us –

a) The only thing certain, the Mahabharata tells us, is that kala(time or death) is always cooking us

b) Adopt a friendly face to the world, but do not allow yourself to be exploited. Turning the other cheek sends a wrong signal to cheats.

c) Do something ‘because it must be done’.

d) One should never do to another what one regards as injurious to oneself. This, in brief, is the law of dharma.

e) One does not control the outcome of one’s acts, but one can chose to work or not. Human initiative does matter even though there is much beyond one’s control.

The author takes generous references to Greek Mythology. As someone who has absolutely no idea about the Greek Mythology, I found the comparisons a bit hard to follow, but the context clears up most of the things.

Gurucharan Das states that, Mahabharata can never be a ‘how to’ book since it offers more questions than answers.He concludes –

The Mahabharata is about our incomplete lives, about good people acting badly, about how difficult it is to be good in this world.


If you have ever wondered – “Why Good People suffer?” and “How is the world so unjust if God is true?”, this book is a must-read.

Have a great day and keep rocking!!


The Story of Power Telling


I just reversed the title a bit, similar to ‘The common of a Power man’ in the recent blockbuster ‘Chennai Express’. The title is ‘The Power of Story Telling’. I would like to tell this though an example.

My darling daughter Saanvi who turned 3 couple of months back is averse to bathing, but likes to sit in her bath tub, terming it as “Swimming”. So, when I call her to bathe, she will respond on a pre-condition that she will enter the bathroom only for swimming and not for bathing. I’ve tried many different ways, and finally settled to tell her a particularly fictitious horror story about bathing, which ticked big time with her. The story goes like this –

Once upon a time, there was a king. He didn’t like bathing but only wanted to swim everyday. So, day on day dirt accumulated on him and a black patch formed all over his body. Soon, ants, mosquitoes and all dirty insects started crawling on him. He smelled foul and no one played with him. He wasn’t even allowed into the playground. So, he ordered his soldiers and asked them to bathe him. So, 10 soldiers each took one soap each and started bathing one part of the body each. It took them one year to clean off the dirt and the king became white and fresh again! So, everyone played with him and since then he took bath everyday!! He used to ask his mom to bathe him first thing in the morning.

I made quite a few funny sounds, during the time soldiers bathed the king. She was hooked on. She immediately asked me – “Mom, will I get a black patch too?”. That’s it – my story is a success. I finished her bath in 5 minutes and got her out of the bathroom.

Tell a story. Persuade people – tell them why they need to do a particular thing.  It works – from toddlers to older people. The story needs to scare people a bit, soothe them and offer a solution – all at once while striking an emotional chord with them. Are you ready to sell things by weaving them into a beautiful story? For me, the journey has begun and I am sure to tell lot  more stories to Saanvi to get things done my way 🙂

Have a good day and keep rocking!!

Lessons my Bike Learning has taught me


Learning to ride my TVS Wego is one of my biggest achievements in Life. Now, you wonder – when every other school goer to retired uncle can ride a bike these days, what’s so great in taking it as one of my biggest accomplishments?

Allow me to explain. Although a bicycle rider for a good 8 years – all through my school, college and a bit of engineering life, I never graduated to bike. For a simple reason – I just didn’t think of it. And I never stayed at a place for long, and after I got married – i just didn’t feel the need to. As my daughter turned 2, I wanted to take her around and get her to play.  Now, how easy would that be with a bike? As days went by, the desire to learn bike became so strong that I finally bought one late 2013. 

You would imagine that, for a bicycle rider learning a bike is a cake walk. Not for me. If you would have a competition in the whole of India about people clueless about directions, probably I wound contend for the top spot. And yeah for mindlessness too. There are things that never miss my radar, and most of them are not on my radar. So, given the serious thinker I am, coupled with the above qualifications, my family was very worried to get me a bike, rightly so.

As the practice sessions started, Vinod started to grow more frustrated and convinced that I cannot ride a bike safely. While I more or less displayed my usual confident self that it’s a matter of time before I drive on my own – I still couldn’t get the courage to get saanvi out.  Now, I drive Saanvi to her playschool early in the morning, followed by 2 trips to my work place – morning and evening in the busy bangalore roads. So, what are the lessons my bike learning taught me?

a) Practice, Practice and Practice : That’s it. For any new skill, consistent practice will definitely yield results. Although you’ll be pathetic at first, just keep going and suddenly one day the thing you’re struggling about becomes cake walk.

b) Ignore the messenger, Catch the message : Amid frustrations, Vinod would almost give up on me everyday. But, slowly I noticed that I wasn;t following the basic rules of driving and that’s what was driving him crazy. Although I still argued that I was an awesome learner, I internalized the mistakes and never repeated them consciously.

c) Driving Factor: The Stronger the driving factor, the faster things get done. The ability to take Saanvi around by myself was something very strongly wanted by me, and I could do anything to achieve it. Lot of times, after practice session with Vinod, I would go out alone and practice again on the same roads to see how well I learnt things. I doubt if the motivation would have been the same if associated with myself, but having Saanvi on the goal definitely motivated me to learn bike faster and better.

d) Learn on the way: The first day I took Saanvi to playschool, no one in my family approved. For the simple and logical reason – I am not a good driver yet. But, I went anyway. So, in Life there’s nothing as being ready. If you are confident enough that you can manage, starting is the best thing to do. And the more I drove to work and to playschool, the better driver I am now. I wouldn’t have got this with the practice sessions on the same roads at the same time.

It’s like independence. I celebrated my ability to drive with a nice cup of ice-cream.  

Have a good day and keep rocking!!