Epic Memories and Philosophical Ruminations @BYOB Party in September (Part 1)
This time we chose a different venue for the BYOB Party. We co-hosted this quaint book party with Reading Hour and it took as an hour to get to the venue- a quiet house filled with the warmth of book loving souls Vaishali and Arun Khandekar.
Nilesh Trivedi has a penchant for challenging books in a previous BYOB Party. He found Indian Philosophy by S.Radhakrishnan quite riveting. Though the book is written in English for western readers, it is a starting point for a seeker of knowledge when it comes to such an inaccessible subject like philosophy. While Bertrand Russell and Will Durant have succeeded in making the polarities of Western philosophies far more accessible, S. Radhakrishnan has veered away from the mystical and provided a serious analysis of Indian philosophy, of which there are several parts.
The German philosopher Schopenhauer’s dictum of never reading commentaries was a strong motivator for Nilesh to chose this book. Summaries may seem appalling to a fiction lover like Vaishali (how can you read a summary of a fiction?) but reading summaries is one way of tackling the mountainous number of non-fiction books out there.
As is the case with book parties, one reader is magically connected to the next by an invisible thread called taste. Arun Khandekar spoke at great length about his experiences reading the philosophical works of Swami Vivekanada and Ramakrishna Paramahmsa.
“It is strange how Vivekananda uttered such difficult truths in his time. He believed in the agency of the mind and finding things out on your own.” Arun believes that this freedom of thought and expression seems to be a thing of the past.
“In fact The Great Indian Novel written by Shashi Tharoor and published in the 90’s interprets the Mahabharata in a way that can not be envisioned being done now.”
Arun told us how Tharoor eloquently clothed epic characters in contemporary light, reflecting the Indian public’s fascination with this story. Abhaya confessed to his addiction of the Mahabharata series that he watched on YouTube several times over and Arun spoke of the pre-internet, pre-TV days when he relied heavily on Amar Chitra Katha to feed his Mahabharata compulsions.
“In hindsight, in post independence India, it was stories like Harishchandra that got more leeway and now we see a renewed interest in the epics,” Arun mused.
Even if you did not know the nitty-gritty of the epic, the rivalry between the righteous Pandavas and the tainted Kauravas have lodged themselves in the Indian psyche.
“There is a Shakuni in every household,” Veena Prasad, a writer, summed it up nicely.
The mythical theme continued in Veena’s description of her co-writer Raghunathan’s book called Duryodhana, a book she confessed to reading in one sitting. “It’s a book from the villain’s point of view. Only here, the villain questions the reader. He speaks from the other side and his monologues are a social commentary on hypocrisies and double standards that existed in Hastinapur.”
The defining line from the book Veena cites is when Duryodhana says, “I had evil thoughts, and so have they”. The story of the Mahabharata never runs dry, does it?
More coming up…in 2,3,4, and 5….