Wisdom of a timeless classic decoded for children

Roopa Pai explaining children the intricacies hidden in Bhagawad Gita. Pic: Shree D N

In a fun and fascinating session at the Bengaluru Literature Festival on Saturday afternoon (17 December 2016), Roopa Pai, Bengaluru-based bestselling author of The Gita for Children, convinced kids (and their parents) of the importance of the Bhagawad Gita even in today’s modern world – explaining how it was a math puzzle book, a weight loss book and the oldest self-help book in the world!

She briefly ran through the story of the Mahabharata. Through her narrative, she made children laugh out loud by combining humour and references to daily life experiences.

The session was highly interactive. Enthusiastic children listened carefully as Roopa changed their view of the Gita from a torturously long book meant for religious old people and grandparents to a book that teaches one and all on how to keep oneself happy and positive while doing the right thing.

Roopa used terms and references that children could easily relate to as she narrated the sequence of events of the Mahabharata, and the place of the Gita in all of it. She described Arjuna’s paralysing fear on the battlefield, and the stolid friend and advisor that Krishna was.

“Kurukshetra is not just a faraway battlefield,” said Roopa, as she explained why each and every one should read the book. “Kurukshetra is in your mind, in your heart. The Pandavas and Kauravas live inside you, and each day you go out into the world, you will face moral battles- should I do this? Should I not? You need to tell the Pandavas and Kauravas yelling at you to hush, so that you listen to Krishna. So that you can listen to that little voice telling you what is right and what’s wrong.”

Both adults and children listened attentively as she laid out five easy steps to listen to one’s conscience. Kids present learnt important moral values, as well as had a great time.

Post the session, on being asked about her bold move of rewriting the Gita thus, Roopa replied in a series of text messages, “I hadn’t ever imagined that I would be writing an interpretation of the Gita in my life. It was my editor at Hachette India, Vatsala Kaul-Banerjee, who first put the idea into my head and then proceeded to insist that I write a version of the Gita, for children.

“I was very doubtful about my ability to understand and assimilate its wisdoms, leave alone being able to make them accessible to young audiences, but after resisting staunchly for six months, I decided to try and read the original with some focus. To my surprise, pretty soon, I was well and truly hooked. It was a beautiful, wise, most comforting, liberal and secular text, fully cognisant of and accepting of human frailty.”

“I found there were timeless lessons in there, that could apply just as well to a 21st century teen as to a 60 year old in the 5th century. By the end of my reading, I knew that I had to write this book, so that children of the current generation would not miss out on the wisdoms and insights of India’s biggest blockbuster bestseller.”

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