I have never read the Bhagavad Gita, till yesterday. It all started with my daughter saying (whining) that she is-not-familiar-with / did-not-know “God Stories” like her friends. An outcome of having atheist parents! We pacified her, and asked her to look at the lives of great people, by reading their life stories.
While that temporarily cooled her, it honestly awakened my inner self. The issue is not a “should I” or “shouldn’t I” tell her God stories; rather, it is “Do I know?” – do I know such stories, that I can share with my children, those that create an inner awakening? I do know mythological stories, that I learnt from cinema through the revered Sivaji Ganesan sir, Siva Kumar sir et al, but on introspection, I understood that I am not keen to share them with my children. This led me on a quest to find suitable sources on Hinduism and Indian mythology.
In that quest, I bumped into this wonderful book, “The Gita for Children” by Roopa Pai. I received the book yesterday and finished reading it already, and I was wondering what would I do – if not for PlusMinus’n’More – to share my awe with many and inspire at least few to read the book.
The book starts with Roopa Pai cutting the long story of the Mahabharatha, short. It runs for about 5-6 pages. It is a capsule of Mahabharatha for children. The crux of the story told in a simple way; the reason why the great war was fought.
The author goes on, next, in a kid friendly way, explaining why The Gita was told. The author quizzes the reader to make the reader immerse in the Gita. After some facts, fun facts, explanation, trivia, the prayer of Gita, the Gita starts. I see that the kids are already prepared for the long journey of the book, with the author.
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- The biggest plus is that the content is presented in a non-preachy way. For kids it would be like a friendly discussion they would have, after a tiff with a best friend, or, losing in a game etc.
- Apart from getting many answers to the questions of my kids, the atheist me, also got answers to my questions.
- Inspiring and vivid narration. Each chapter explains what Krishna said, and also explains, to the children, what Krishna intended to convey.
- Catchy chapter names kindle interest and arouse expectation about what is going to be told in that chapter.
- The 18 Lessons from Gita, after each chapter, not too little, not too much. The content of the lessons suits kids of this generation. For example, Lesson # 17 You are what you eat, or as computer scientists might put it, ‘Garbage in, garbage out’, Lesson # 3 Matter cannot be created or destroyed; it only changes form, to emphasize on the journey of the soul.
- Effectively written content, makes it easy for a parent to teach (discuss) virtues. The lessons are something, which we always wanted to tell our children, but were not sure how to say it without being preachy or boring.
- The analogies!
- The visual analogy comparing Krishna’s Viswaroop to the 1931 Manhattan Nuclear test.
- While explaining the famous Yadha Yadha Hi Dharmasya shloka, she leaves it to the kids’ imagination to think of Mahatma Gandhi, or the Dark Knight, as an avatar, if they cannot believe in God coming down to Earth to protect the good and kill the evil.
- Analogies used to differentiate duties and responsibilities, and why one should do both, to mention a few. The author has used metaphors and analogies throughout the book, that makes difficult concepts palatable for young guns. It is like the NCERT primary school text at times – letting kids know things in the way they can understand, interpret.
- I did make another attempt to read the Bhagavad Gita, that is shelved in my library, after reading this book. No, I am not able to go beyond 3 pages. That shows how important it is that such a great conversation be told in a simple way. Telling it in simple terms didn’t take away from the “greatness” of the book. Roopa Pai did that!
- So, every night before we go to sleep, it is “Gitopadesh” at home. I am reading chapter by chapter to my Grade 4 & Grade 2. They are very keen to listen, and nudging me to read more until their eyelids close. (It is an extremely kid-friendly book.)
- They easily understand the (18) lessons told by Roopa, by relating easily to them. (Right now we are in lesson 6. I am sure they would enjoy the remaining 12, as they did the first 6).
- Now, my kids are taking sides – on “Should Arjuna wage a war or not?”. As Krishna and Arjuna converse chapter by chapter, they get confused on what is right and what is wrong. They have frequent arguments that go, “no no Krishna is right”, or, “no no Arjuna is right”. I am in awe to see such an involvement from them. It is like watching a movie for them – to put it bluntly. It is Roopa’s narration that does this magic.
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- Why not a colorful version? It is slightly difficult to convince my children that this book is indeed for them.
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- This book is not only for children or specific to a religion. It is a Self-Help book for everyone who wants to lead a peaceful and successful life.
- It is interesting to note that the Bhagavad Gita also believes in believing in oneself, and finding the god within you; it never emphasizes that everyone should take the “God” route.
The Gita for children – A Soulful Song Suitable for All Ages!