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BOOK REVIEW: LEADER by Devdutt Pattanaik


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–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    Hello and welcome friends. The book for today is ‘LEADER—50 insights from mythology’ by none other than Devdutt Pattanaik. This manuscript has seen the light of the day through renowned publishers HarperCollins. The price of this book is rupees 499. It was published in the year 2017 under management classification.

    Devdutt Pattanaik as we all know since 1996 has written over thirty books and 700 columns, on how stories, symbols, and rituals that construct the subjective truth of myths, of ancient, and modern cultures around the world.

    The book is indeed unique in many senses where, the author has tried to link the happenings and beliefs of mythology with our day-to-day life, especially, management of business enterprises. To write such a book, the author, obviously needed to have, vast cross section insights, into mythology, and its perfect syncretism for the safeguard of mankind. And the author has done exactly that.

    The book totals up to 235 pages. It has 50 chapters, and each chapter has a management lesson that emanates out of, either, a mythological tenet, or a mythological happening. Each chapter is some four to five pages long, written in plain English. Sentences are, quite well structured, with no wastage of words. And it touches everyone’s life, for most of us are actually struggling, in some form or the other, in this formidable orbit of life.

    I may not be in a position to narrate each and every episode or chapter of the book to you. But I would certainly like to take you through certain mythological names, events, episodes and tenets in the book that construct each chapter and then connects it with the relevant modern day episodes of business and the corporate world. The book encircles Mahabharata, Krishna, Arjuna, Vishwaroopa, Panadvas, Krishna, Draupadi, Kauravas, Duryodhana, Yudhistira, Dronacharya, Drupada, Kurukshetra, Bhagvata, Karna, Bhisma-Pitahmah, Bheem, Shikhandi, Elephant, Ashwatthama, Shalya, Bhagavata Purana, Khandavaprastha, Mathura, Kansa, Narada, Dwarka, Sudama, Uttanka, Gandhari, Sukant, Sharda, Kaliya the serpent, Hastinapur and Vyasa. These names itself will give you a flavour of the book.

    The author also connects Mahadeva, Shiva, Parvati, Rama, Ramayana, Rishi Vishwamitra, King Dasharatha, Bharata, Hanuman, Kumbhakarna, Vibhisana, Ayodhya, Ravana, Lanka, Garuda, Kartikeya, Ganesh, Shiv-puran, Daksha Prajapati, Varuna, Vishnu, Deva, Asuras, Lakshmi, Vishnu-Purana, Manu, Upanishads, nymph-Tilottama, Kama and Menka. These names only tell you in which circuit the book is indeed moving.

    The very name Devdutt Pattanaik might instil, in some prospective readers that the book has a Hindu flare. Where, I would like to clarify the book only has a Corporate and business flare backed up by episodic mythology, that is relevant to prove the point. No wonder it has episodes from Bible and Quran and talks of Prophet, Nathan, David, Muhammad, Ramzan, Archangel Gabriel, Mecca, Arabs, Europe, Persia, Christianity and Islam.

    It is refreshing to read about Greek Gods, Olympic Motto —Citius, Altius, Fortius—that translates into faster, higher, stronger. Then you have Ulysses, Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, Apollo, Sea-God Poseidon, Greek God Hermes, Greek—Sisyphus, Greek heaven of the Elysian Fields, and how the author connects it to modern times.

    The book draws lessons from Brahma, Durga, Kamakhya, Shruti, Rishis, Yagnas, Raja-suya Yagna, Ashrama-dharma, Ashwamedha yagya, Mount Meru and Vishwakarma. It gives due importance to animals such as Boar, Eagle, Lion and horse. It spins a situational, positional and devotional story out of Chandra Gupta Maurya, Chanakya, Vikramaditya & Vetal, Chatrapati Shivaji, Shaunaka—the sage, Vaishampayana and Maa Santoshi Vrat.

    Both mythology and life is incomplete without stars and planets. The author brings around an episode with Brihaspati—Jupiter and Shukra—Venus.

    The author reminds of the greatness of Gautama, Buddha, Agastaya Muni, Nahusha, Indradyuma, Rishi Markandeya, Savitri, Satyavan, Shaktimuni and Harishchandra.

    Indian mythology has always had a lineage of folk tales where the author has included episodes of Akbar-Birbal, Shekchilli, Ganguteli, Raja Bhoj, Gobar ka Ganesh to convey lessons for modern day.

    And last but not the least the author even takes tips from Vivah-marriage, masculine, feminine, Americano—Pavlonian, Alpha-Male, Mughals, Jahapanah, Palki & Palanquin.

    We all think we know a lot about our own religion. But the reality is quite different. You will find it out when you read the book. For example we all think Duryodhana broke a lot of rules in Mahabharat. But did he actually do so? Find out. Read the book. I would give it eight of ten. A must read.

By Kamlesh Tripathi




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  • For as his brain developed—you cannot stop your brain developing, and it is one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life.
  •   “It’s all very well,” grumbled Ellis, with his forearms on the table, fidgeting with his glass. The dispute with Mr. Macgregor had made him restless again. “It’s all very well, but I stick to what I said. No natives in this Club! It’s by constantly giving way over small things like that that we’ve ruined the Empire. This country’s only rotten with sedition because we’ve been too soft with them. The only possible policy is to treat ‘em like the dirt they are. This is a critical moment, and we want every bit of prestige we can get. We’ve got to hang together and say, ‘We are the masters, and you beggars—‘ “ Ellis pressed his small thumb down as though flattening a grub—“ ‘you beggars keep your place!’”
  • He followed her into the bedroom. In a week–it was only a week–her appearance had degenerated extraordinarily. Her hair looked greasy. All her lockets were gone, and she was wearing a Manchester longyi of flowered cotton, costing two rupees eight annas. She had coated her face so thick with powder that it was like a clown’s mask, and at the roots of her hair, where the powder ended, there was a ribbon of natural-coloured brown skin. She looked a drab. Flory would not face her, but stood looking sullenly through the open doorway to the veranda.
  • “Thank you, Monsieur.” She spoke in English but her voice was foreign, a rich low voice very seductive in quality. As she was about to pass on, she hesitated and murmured: “Pardon, Monsieur, but I think you were recently at Grasse?”
  • At the same time, the Emperor had a great desire that I should see the magnificence of his palace; but this I was not able to do till three days after, which I spent in cutting down, with my knife, some of the largest trees in the royal park, about a hundred yards distance from the city. Of these trees I made two stools, each about three feet high, and strong enough to bear my weight.
  • Alas,” said Candide, “my dear Pangloss often proved to me that the goods of this world are common to all men, that everyone has an equal right to them. Acting on that principle, the Franciscan should have left us enough to finish our journey. So you have nothing left, fair Cunegonde?”
  • P.V. Narasimha Rao came from humble home. His intellectual centre was India; his roots were deep in its spiritual and religious soil. His knowledge of Sanskrit profound. He was a man of learning, a scholar, a linguist and a thinker of the first order.
  • Gogol has never heard the term ABCD. He eventually gathers that it stands for “American-born confused deshi.” In other words him. he learns that C could also stand for “conflicted.”
  • The Don said meekly, “Wait, I’ll get you your money.” Then he went out into the garden and said to Sonny, “Listen, there’s some men working on the furnace, I don’t understand what they want. Go in and take care of the matter.”
  • “The rudeness spread to one of the assistant directors,” said Moriarty. “Instead of calling Marilyn for a scene, he would stand there and glare at her, tapping his foot for as long as he could. There would eventually be a big blow up, when all the man had to do was say, ‘Excuse me, Miss Monroe, we’re ready for you.’ She was denied all the prerogatives of a star.”
  • Taken aback by this passionate eloquence, Ruru lowered his staff. He feared that the snake might be a sage in disguise. Seeking to appease the great soul, Ruru said, “You do not seem like an ordinary snake. I believe you must be some other being only temporarily occupying this form. Tell me then, how did you come to be a snake?’
  • The sun was now setting. It was about three in the afternoon when Alisande had begun to tell me who the cow-boys were; so she had made pretty good progress with it- for her. She would arrive some time or other, no doubt, but she was not a person who could be hurried- Sandy’s Tale- Mark Twain page 107
  • I honour your circumspection. A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little. One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight. But if we do not venture somebody else will; and after all, Mrs. Long and her daughters must stand their chance; and, therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness, if you decline the office, I will take it on myself.
  • FAY. Your son is a thorn in my flesh. The contents of his dressing-table are in indictment of his way of life. Not only firearms, but family-planning equipment. A Papal dispensation is needed to dust his room.
  • In a country as diverse as ours, there will always be passionate arguments about how we draw the line when it comes to government action. That is how our democracy works. But our democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect; if liberals at least acknowledged that the recreational hunter feels the same way about his gun as they feel about their library books, and if conservatives recognized that most women feel as protective of their right to reproductive freedom as evangelicals do of their right to worship.
  • The pigeon that stays at home is always in terror for the fate of the pigeon on the wing.
  • All this modern brag about women’s lib, male bashing appeared as poster signs for the erudite to read and jostle through this not-so-good world, as you still had the Ria’s of the world to be saved from the callous studs and the bitchy hens of the ‘scheming jungle’ called society.’
  • ‘Mar. Death is a penalty which a person can pay only once, and she has made that payment. What you wish to do has been done already for you. the last words she spoke were, “Anthony, most noble Anthony!” and in the midst of her speech, a rending groan came in the middle of “Anthony”; the word was split in two between, her heart and her lips. She gave up her life, and the half of your name was buried within her.’
  • “All is well so far. The lambardar reports regularly. No refugees have come through the village yet.I am sure no one in Mano Majra even knows that the British have left and the country is divided into Pakistan and Hindustan. Some of them know about Gandhi but I doubt if anyone has even heard about Jinnah.”
  • In the Mahabharata, Pandu has two wives but cannot have sex with them because of a curse. Pandu means pale and weak and could be related to the Sanskrit word panda meant for men unable to have sex with women for a variety of reasons.
  • ‘Mr Gilmer’s back stiffened a little, and I felt sorry for him. Perhaps I’d better explain something now. I’ve heard that lawyers’ children, on seeing their parents in court in the heat of argument, get the wrong idea: they think opposing counsel to be the personal enemies of their parents, they suffer agonies, and are surprised to see them often go out arm-in-arm with their tormentors during the first recess.’
  • ‘Well, there was once a tortoise, who was, of course, provided with a shell, and within this shell he used to hide for protection against the attacks of his enemies. One day, someone said to him, “You must find it very hot inside there in the summertime. Besides, when you are hidden, no one can admire your bodily perfections. Now, here is a serpent who will give you a million and a half for your shell.”’ ‘Good!’ said Monsieur Fouquet, laughing.       ‘So the tortoise sold his shell, and had to go about unprotected. He was discovered by a vulture, who, feeling hungry, broke his back with a blow of his beak, and had him for dinner.’
  • A little later, full into view swung a duplication of his dromedary, tall and white, and bearing a houdah, the travelling litter of Hindostan.’
  • Viswamitra, the greatest of the ascetic heroes of the Iliad of the East, had in him a perfect representative. He might have been called a Life drenched with the wisdom of Brahma- Devotion Incarnate.’
  • ‘He spoke bluffly, and only somebody like Sherlock Holmes or Monsieur Poirot could have divined that at the sound of her voice his soul had turned a double somersault, leaving him quivering with an almost Bill Rowcester-like intensity.’
  • Initially the losses ran to crores of rupees, Sir, but since we stopped production it has proved very economical !