Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi
Chanakya as a historical character was discovered not too long ago, but he has caught the imagination of all who heard or read about him. His work on statecraft and theories on economics remain a reference point for the generations since his discovery. He has inspired filmmakers,writers, students of politics and economics. I had read him few years back and was taken aback by his shrewdness, which as the years pass I see as part of many things happening around. While historians are not sure if Arthashastra was the work of only Chanakya or was compiled by him based on multiple earlier works, but we do know that to compile also you have to comprehend all the previous works and understand them. And more importantly the learning that comes from one’s own experience of testing those strategies is more valuable than what has been written on paper.
In this book, author juxtaposes the time of Chanakya with today’s time through a character that mirrors Chanakaya. If Chanakya made Chandragupta Maurya the emperor of Bharat, his image in 21st century makes Chandni Gupta the Prime minister of India following the same strategies like identifying or even creating the weakness of everyone around you and then using it to sway them your way at the right time. If in Chanakya’s time there were small kingdoms in India,there are states in modern India.
The novel runs two parallel stories separated by2300 years that meet only in the last chapter. While we know Chanakys’a story,it still makes an interesting reading with its weave of knowledge, strategy and its execution. The second story is reflection on current happenings in the country, drawing instances from all the political games, scams and scandals.Kingmakers in both the story have nothing to loose as nothing binds them, no family, no status and no needs and a single point focus of getting their protégés to rule the country. I liked what he says about power of renunciation that comes only to those who can renounce everything. After all one reason they were successful was because they could afford to be ruthless, they had no binding in their life of any kind so no weakness that the others could exploitand nothing that could be lured with.
The stories have been written nicely in a lucid manner. The parts of the modern story had some clichés that could have been avoided. If quotes of Chanakya were used instead of those borrowed from Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, it would have kept the story very focused. The story is quote tightly woven but for some loose ends like chanting of a mantra some thousands of time everyday. Overall it makes a very engaging reading with stories moving between eras but still bound together by a central character and his play field.
I would recommend this book for those who have not read Chanakya yet and would want to read it in a story form rather than a theory form. Even for those who have read him, it makes an entertaining reading.
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