With fun and trivia, this Bhagavad Gita is for all ages (Book Review)

Title: The Gita for Children; Author: Roopa Pai; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 264; Price: Rs.299

The Bhagvad Gita has been a universal, all-time bestseller. But even its translated versions in a host of languages has been rather difficult for adults and the young alike to fathom in its true spirit, leave alone its original text in Sanskrit.

This is where authors like Roopa Pai come in. A computer engineer by profession, Pai obviously likes children, going by her works.

Pai’s book on this much revered 700-verse narrative, drawn from the conversations Lord Krishna had with Pandava prince Arjuna at a battleground, is certainly for young adults, aptly named “Gita for Children”.

Peppered with interesting anecdotes, fun and trivia and even using analogies of The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Rudyard Kipling, to name a few, the book spells out quite interestingly the compelling, yet understandable, message that The Gita seeks to send out.

Most of the sections not only spell out what each of the 18 chapters of the book tries to say but is also followed by what lessons they hold for us mortals — like a tour guide which the Bangalore-based Pai doubles up as, besides being a journalist and a writer.

For example, in a bid to explain a verse in the original book that exercise and endurance are a valid form of worship, Pai gives the example of Joanne K. Rowling and says 17 publishers had, in fact, turned down her manuscripts for “Harry Potter” saying they didn’t think it was good enough.

“The 18th one agreed to take a chance on her. Today, ‘Harry Potter’ is one of the most famous and popular fictional characters in the world,” says Pai, adding that faith alone is not enough but must be backed by tons of hard work and discipline.

In another chapter where The Gita seeks to explain who is a happy human once again, the author says Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, two of the most popular singer-songwriters, had their own unique ways of conveying the same message that the revered book does.

In McCartney’s case, the author says: He wonders in his hit song “Ebony and Ivory” as to why the people of different colours are unable to live in friendship, when the black and white keys of the piano do so in such perfect harmony to produce beautiful music.

Similarly, she also draws from Jackson’s song ‘Black or White’ and says his message was to the listeners was that colour or race are not attributes that make people different, but what they have in their minds.

Then there are some interesting explanations on some popular practices! One such is her take on what yoga means and says the foundation for this ancient practice was literally in “ashtanga” or “raja” yoga, that translated into eight limbs for perfect balance of the mind and the body.

Another similar explanation is given on Ayurveda.

The book also likens some phrases stated in the original text to what a child can understand. On the four kinds of foods, Pai say that food one chews is like samosas, what you drink is like colas, what you suck is like mango pulp and what you lick is like an ice cream cone.

It is evident Pai knows what children like. Among her works is “Taranauts” — a fantasy-adventure, eight-part series for kids. But don’t let the “children” part in the title of her latest book bother you.

“The Gita for Children” will prove equally interesting for the youth and the adult alike.

(Arvind Padmanabhan can be reached at arvind.p@ians.in)

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