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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chanakya's Chant

Last month Kiran had a contest running on her blog wherein we had to send our favourite Chanakya maxim. The winners would receive a free copy of Ashwin Sanghi's Chanakya's Chant to review.

Without knowing anything about the book, without taking a sneak peak of the various reviews, I sent her my favourite quote that established women power across -

"Women have hunger two-fold, shyness four-fold, daring six-fold, and lust eight-fold as compared to men"

I received the book 2 days later and turns out that the book does talk of the rise of a woman to power.

From the word go, I was hooked. It was the kind of book that makes one want to turn to the last page and see how it ends.

There are 2 tales running parallely- one about 2300 years before our time which details the ascent of Chandragupta Maurya to the throne of Pataliputra under the sole guidance of master strategist and politician Chanakya and one of the present day- the rise of Chandni Gupta to the post of PM under the mentorship of Pandit Gangasagar Mishra- A professor by profession but a politician by heart.

I cannot decide which tale gripped my attention better. Because everytime the switchover happened, I would find it difficult to come to terms with the change. I would curb the urge to turn over to the following chapter and continue reading the story of the same era. The Chanakya era was according to me better written and had a better flow, the present era was a little disjointed - akin to a collage of news snippets, yet I appreciate this endeavour to use these snippets to keep the larger flow of the story intact.

Chanakya's era ends with a chant and the heart of the story in the current era begins right from the chant.

There are parallels that can be drawn for both stories but the most interesting aspect of Chanakya's era was the so called chemical warfare that Chanakya wages against the enemies- the use of his knowledge of deadly chemicals and the respective antidotes to fight the war. I guess historically this would be a first? Correct me if I am wrong- this is not the use of common garden variety poison throughout the course of history but a very organised and methodical approach to the handling of the deadly chemicals.

While reading the Chanakya section was like my school history classes unfolding before me, reading the present day story was like taking a lesson in the current day political arithmetic, conspiracy theory and political+ economic game - ie going back to the root of it all- the Arthashastra- pun intended.

One realises as one reads both eras- the story is the same, politics, corruption, oneupmanship, greed, quest for power- the protagonists are different.

I wish there was a map detailing the geographic relevance of the Chanakya era as compared to today- it helps to visualize better- like it did for me in the Mughal series.

If you are someone who was always fascinated by the story of Chanakya, or if you are someone who understand and appreciate how present day politics work or if you simply like a good story well written for today's audience go for this book. It will not disappoint you.

Perhaps there is a lesson here, perhaps there is an inspiration here, or perhaps there is just a thrilling story here. Anywhichway, it is a treat to the reader.

Also reviewed Here


mohit said...

An enjoyable read Chanakya's Chant by Ashwin Sanghi. loved the way it balances two completely different storylines. I particularly liked the one written 2300 years ago.

Rahul said...

Dodging two different areas this book places too many characters at one place. Untill you go full concentration, easy confusion is on the cards. Politics is rampant in the narrative which can confuse and even bore the casual reader. choose it wisely as its much heavy interpreting this one.