in Life

Hitopadesa – A Penguin India Classic

I registered for this “blog a Penguin India Classic”, got the book, and didn’t manage to complete it for nearly two months. That goes nowhere to say how good or bad the book was, but does go to say how callous, distracted and shameless a person I am. 🙁

Well, I finally managed to read through it, and expectantly it was quite moralizing. The distribution of the sotry sections was really interesting – The first two sections being “Mitralabha” – gaining friends, and “Suhrdbheda” – splitting partners. The next two sections were – “Vigraha” – war, and “sandhi” – peace.

It is, in classic Hindu narration style, written in a spiral riveting style, where stories are within stories within other stories. The deepest chain I could find was of 4 stories going progressively deeper. 🙂 And nearly all the stories’ morals were parts of the shlokas, which had been so adeptly translated by A.N.D Haksar, that they even rhymed in English (something that never really happened even in their own Sanskrit forms…*) It is truly one book to learn from, except for the thing that it is severely discriminatory – especially against women. It, at places, goes on and on about the disloyalty of women, and that too so explicitly, you could be sure it was written by these fat thick-headed chauvinists who were all males but thought they knew all about females, and while disclosing such “truths”, could be assured no female’s ever gonna read them. That part quite annoyed me, but otherwise, you could actually learn from many stories of it. The basic framework is the same as that of the Panchatantra, where this knowledgeable pundit’s employed to teach this stupid Princes the values of life, and the Pundit, ingenuously thinks of teaching them numerous morals in the form of interesting stories. 

Nevertheless, worth a read, not for the silly sake of knowing “Indian Culture”, but for imbibing some basic truths about life, which range from making good friends, to being suspisious of everybody, and not trusting the wrong people, however trustworthy they look. 😉 😀


*I always found this superlatively hilarious. Whenever I would ask my Sanskrit teacher why the order of the words was so uinnecessarily screwed up in the Shlokas, she’d look at me with these huge eyes expressing how appalled she felt, and she said – “to rhyme, of course!”. But trust me, a five year studied, such-an-awesome-student-I-actually-got-94-in-my-Sanskrit-boards which are so-huge-that-even-the-Sanskrit-Academy-is-giving-me-this-entirely-generous-scholarship-of-Rs.300 that less than 1 out of 50 shlokas rhyme, in the English sense we know rhyming to mean. I can absolutely not imagine making a cross-language translation of a collection of lines, and actually make them rhyme, considering they didn’t rhyme in the first place. 

  • That reminds me…I must blog about the Penguin India classic I got too!