Monday, May 25, 2015

Chanakya in You - Radhakrishnan Pillai

'Chanakya in You' is Dr. Radhakrishnan Pillai's first work of fiction, coming on the heels of two non-fiction books 'Corporate Chanakya' and 'Chanakya's 7 Secrets of Leadership'. It is the story of a young boy in the modern age who follows the principles taught by Chanakya in the Arthashastra and becomes successful. Since becoming successful is every person's dream, it deals with an issue that is most relevant.
Jaico Books, 240 p, Rs. 299
The idea of the book is to bring Chanakya's timeless wisdom into present day life - which in itself is laudable and interesting. Radha introduces us to the protagonist, a school boy interested in reading (one of the things that Radha passionately recommends is the reading habit and accumulation of knowledge). The young man (nameless by design) is given the Arthashastra by his grandfather, an avid reader of the 4th century Kingmaker's works. As the boy reads, rereads and imbibes the book and its contents, he is drawn into Kautilya's thought process. He understands that the Arthashastra is not some manipulative document but about how to run one's kingdom after attaining leadership through the path of Dharma (which is an area most people are clueless about in today's world). The young boy reads the 6000 sutras of the Arthashastra from translations of the original work and understands how the knowledge of principles makes the kingmaker more powerful than the king.

Many of the protagonist's own dilemmas are cleared as he grows up because of his knowledge of the principles. He completes his graduation and pursues his study of Arthashastra under a renowned guru. For 6 months he labours in the gurukul system, under the guru shishya parampara, of the system of following the guru's aachaar, vichaar and vyavahaar, and learns the Arthashashtra through intense study. He learns how leadership is about leading to a higher goal. At the ashram he meets a businessman, known as the noble businessman. The young boy understands from him that money or wealth is not a bad thing at all.

In fact the businessman says there is a process to dealing with wealth - identification of wealth (knowing your talents and strengths as your inner wealth), creation of wealth (working towards creating the wealth), management of wealth (saving and investing and growing and protecting against loss) and distribution of wealth (giving it back).

Thus prepared on the laws of good living in the world, the young boy dreams of becoming the richest man in the world (which is an interesting dream because many of us say that half-seriously without expecting what to expect - but here the young man is serious about it). He joins a business house and uses the principles of Arthashastra to excel. He rises to a high position in a company under the eyes of the Chairman. He is promoted, but declines because he has decided to start his own business. The business is a success and he is soon stuck at a place where he has to make another decision - how to grow bigger and scale. He brings his ex-Chairman as a partner and they grow the company. Soon he becomes the richest man in India. Along the way he marries, has children and writes bestselling books and eventually becomes the richest man in the world.

Apart from stressing on how we in India fail to apply our ancient knowledge to our lives, the book also tells us that Arthashastra will free us from hatred. Some of the principles that the protagonist refers to on his journey are - how thinking is the foundation of any activity, how sharpened intellect is far more powerful in its application and results, how to learn from experts in various fields, how it's important to practice what we know and to learn new things, the importance of a partner when activities need to be scaled up, how it's important to be active in the management of economy and how inactivity brings material distress, how to opt for the stronger king when making partnership choices. On children, the principle is that one must love them until they are 5 years, discipline them from ages 5 to 15 and then, treat them as friends. Nice.

On money or wealth, the young man has a discussion with his stronger partner, the Chairman who says - 'money is a powerful tool. It can help you to help others. It can liberate you. It can give you moksha." He says if you gain knowledge, wealth will follow. Also not to forget that wealth is not what is 'with you' but also what is 'in' you. To me, just for this one aspect, this book deserves to be read because like Radha says, most of us in India are unclear of our relationship with money and are guilty about having it. If we are clear, we  can get a move on.

On leadership, the thoughts are perfectly in sync with Tao principles - treat the employees or followers like children to get the best out of them. He also says that leadership is a combination of intelligence and spirit - and how a leader should inspire. (Just today I was reading an article of how Google has found that leaders should be boring and predictable - need not be fiery speakers and inspiring leaders. For me inspiring others to action can be a factor of stepping back too - and that itself makes one inspiring!)

'Chankaya in You' is a thought-provoking read. Told in an easy to read and simple style, the thought behind the book is interesting - how to use ancient principles to fulfill our dreams in today's world and how wealth is not bad at all and the various ways in which you go about attracting it. The chapters are short and crisp, four pages at the most, the style easy. Then there are the gems from Chanakya told through wise practitioners which make immense sense. I now know that Chanakya, Kautilya and Vishnugupta are the same person (or at least most agree that they are the same person).


Unknown said...

Thanks Hari

Harimohan said...

Enjoyed the evening Radha. Good luck with the book. I am sure it will go past the first two.