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Book Review: Chanakya’s Lessons

Chanakya’s advice to the king was to kill him and make it look like animals attacked him during a hunt, but no one was to know about it

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Any pursuer of art who wants to find an audience should first identify the audience. A musician or a filmmaker dabbles in a particular genre with the knowledge of who his audience will be and tries to connect with them. Once in a while there will be someone who breaks the boundaries and reaches varied audiences. But this is an exception, rather than a rule.

Radhakrishnan Pillai, a self-confessed Chanakya devotee, has written about the teacher before. Those lessons were all about management and corporate leadership. In this book, he is torn. Should he tell the stories to kids or should he address adults? He takes the middle path and that is what lets his book down.

The stories are told in a very simplistic manner. He divides each of the 30 chapters into two sections — Acharya Neeti, where he encapsulates the lesson in a few lines, and Acharya Katha, where he recounts the story. This would have been fine for children, but then, he decides to have an ‘Insights’ column where he makes notes and leaves a page asking the reader to add in their personal takeaways. This is a very weak attempt at making it interactive.

In one of the stories there was a minister who used to work hard and once he was promoted became lazy and corrupt. Chanakya’s advice to the king was to kill him and make it look like animals attacked him during a hunt, but no one was to know about it. People should remember the minister as an honest man. How would this apply in a corporate structure? You fire someone and then make it out that the person resigned?

Chanakya is very famous as a person in Indian lore. But he is known for his intelligence, especially in political matters. There are stories about his legend, how he swore to dethrone King Dhananand, installed Chandragupta Maurya as Emperor, played a big part in ensuring that Alexander didn’t conquer India, etc. All of these are recounted here also. But his stories were not fables, they were not for children. They were political treatises. But politics has changed a lot. Those lessons are not applicable now.

By not making a connection to the corporate world and not declaring that these were political lessons, Pillai shows his inability to identify his audience. I am a dreamer who thinks in his spare time. But these stories didn’t connect to me in any way.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 02 April 2017 books book reviews

Vinu Syriac

The author is a freelance contributor

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