Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kalila and Dimna by Ramsay Wood

Title: Kalila and Dimna: The Pancatantra Retold - Book One
Author: Ramsay Wood
Publication: Random House India
Price: INR 225

Having been born in a typical Indian family, the tales of Panchatantra have been everything to me - from being bed time tales to moral stories to pieces of traditional literature. This book looks at some of the same stories in a peculiar, novel and interesting way, along with some folklores of other lands as well. The story begins with a tale of a fickle minded king Dabschelim who accidently lands up in a lot of treasure and a strange letter from a king of the past. As mentioned in the letter, he gets a certain learned man, Dr. Bidpai to make him understand the contents of the letter. 

The letter contains several 'rules of conduct proper to the behaviour of kings'. The best part of these rules is that many of them even though meant for a king can be easily applied to our lives as well. Say for instance, we must do good, as if we do good, good will be done to us. Or one should be mild and friendly in nature and so on.

Bidpai, in his elaboration of the first rule stated in the letter, starts telling the tale of 'Kalila and Dimna', two jackal brothers. Kalila is the wiser of the two and advises Dimna against his foolhardy behaviour, but to little avail. A lot many other stories have been intertwined with this one. Just as the first rule stated that a king mustn't dismiss any servant at the request of the other person, for a people are bound to be jealous of a servant close to the king, this story of Kalila and Dimna ends in sad end of a faithful subject, due to a foul game of a jealous courtier.

The second story, or a array of stories, I must say, is that of 'Zirac and Friends'. Apt description to the rule that the ministers, counsellors and the likes, if preserved well will together work for the welfare of the state, the stories teach us that friendship which is pure and not based on any kind of expectations or benefit lasts longer, better and stronger.

It is really interesting how Ramsay Wood has connected all the little stories and presented them so logically, basically as a single story.

The little quotations, often at the beginning of the stories and at their close, give an insight into the values being taught or the central idea of the stories.

As the main purpose of the Panchatantra tales, a moral or a meaning can be drawn up everywhere. After reading the book, one feels refreshed and positively motivated. For those of us who have grown up on these tales, this book appears like a harbinger of novelty, a morphosis, a time to look at the past with a new perspective.

A perfectly delightful read for those who want the values of yesterday in the light of today.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog FictionPals ( I wish you'd left a comment regarding my verse version of the Panchatantra.