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Book Reviews: The Eye Of The Fish

What stands out throughout the book is how powerfully the author has managed to reiterate the fact that the journey to being the supreme or the best may not and will not always be easy, but is not impossible either

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The first thing that strikes you when you start reading Debashis Chatterjee’s Invincible Arjuna: Nine Milestones on the Hero Path is the simple language used in the book. Be it the translation of passages from the original epic or the interpretations of those passages made by the author, the language is fluid and makes you want to continue to read.

The story of the Mahabharata, unarguably one of the greatest Indian epics, has had numerous interpretations from times immemorial. We have all grown up reading, hearing or watching stories from the Mahabharata. Whether you have tried to derive some or the other lesson from earlier readings of the epic or not, Invincible Arjuna forces you to introspect and make associations in your professional life from Arjuna’s learnings.

It is amazing how smoothly lessons from a fictional era from thousands of years past resonate so well with today’s modern work lives and professional journeys.

Chatterjee has taught leadership classes at Harvard University and at the IIM in Kolkata, Lucknow and Kozhikode for over two decades. He has earlier written six books on leadership and management.

In Invincible Arjuna, he lists out the nine stages of a person’s life that makes one a hero. We can easily apply each one of those nine lessons in our lives to become better professionals or “professional heroes”, so to speak. While all the nine phases are important, there are a few that have stood out more than the others for me.

He begins by talking about how a hero is born by shaping his own identity. Think about it — don’t we all shape our professional identities by choosing what we want to be. As someone who interacts with scores of different professionals on a daily basis while training, I can vouch for the fact that people have immense potential in them but are either not aware of it or do not know how to maximise that potential. There is a beautiful passage in the book that says, “A hero’s talent lies latent within the self. It sleeps within him as seeds of possibilities. When discovered and nurtured, the seeds grow and flower. This flowering of his talent is a hero’s true vocation… When a grain of corn falls on the earth and decides to remain a grain, its identity as a grain is lost over time. Yet, when the same grain decides to sacrifice itself to the soil, the grain becomes a seed and bears much fruit.” Isn’t that true for us too? How many of us make the maximum use of our potential? How many of us really put in all our effort into outperforming ourselves and prove that we are not the mediocre beings that our bosses and colleagues see us as?

The highlight of the book is the association made between Arjuna and the relevance of his qualities and experiences in today’s contemporary age as well. The author gives us examples from Arjuna’s life, some of which are provided in the context of concentration, commitment and learning — all of which are a constant part of our lives and become even more important in our professional lives. There is constant learning for us every single day of our lives. What differentiates a hero (a successful professional, in our case) from others is that he/she commits to learn and grow continuously. Like Arjuna aspires to be the “supreme warrior”, we aspire to be the “best professional”.

What stands out throughout the book is how powerfully the author has managed to reiterate the fact that the journey to being the supreme or the best may not and will not always be easy, but is not impossible either. The onus lies on us.

To sum it all, “If we devote ourselves to ignorance, then we grow in our ignorance… if we devote ourselves to higher intelligence, we begin to embody that intelligence.” In the end, the choice is ours to make.

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.

Swapnil Kamat

Kamath is CEO, Work Better Training

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