Book Reviews

Hopes and Optimism Enrich Life

Radhakrishna Arora stands out as a man of positive thoughts as one goes through his little but significant book, From Dusk to Dawn - A Journey of Personal Growth (a publication of Notion Press, Chennai, 2013). He is an author of hopes, and optimism is his strength. Little precious and bright thoughts infuse vigour and hope in unhappy minds who would find light at the end of a dark tunnel. In moments of sadness and melancholy, simple and innocuous words of author would stir the minds of disheartened and unsuccessful people. Without much fuss, he writes straight and with authority of an experienced person who does not boast of scholarship. Arora has a clear perspective and straightforward message to convey to individuals who look at life as struggle and suffering with little joys. As a Senior Divisional Manager of LIC, he looked at life intimately with a pragmatic approach. Whatever experiences he gathered, he shares with readers without restraint and inhibition.

Life is a teacher, and relations remain functional

The author makes it clear in his preface that “I am not writing anything original or new.” From Dust to Dawn has seven chapters with an Annexure. It is a work of fiction and yet it is not. In the form of a dialogue between Gautam and Vijay, the author reveals anguish and little joys of stressed and disillusioned men whom Vijay symbolizes. Arora does not write anything new but still he spanks new and innovative thought. Vijay, an extremely successful officer in the marketing world, suffers a massive heart attack. He is rushed to the hospital and treated properly. People pour in and crowd the corridors, enquire about health saying a few words of compassion and love, register notes of empathy and move out. After some days, he recovers but remains weak. However, an obvious thinning out of crowd of sympathizers and well-wishers disturbs. Within a week, he realized that people valued functional relations, and sentiments or feelings were irrelevant.

He was a highly successful man and had fat bank balance but perhaps, he failed to afford sufficient time to his family and children. He wife committed suicide, and a bright son left and settled in USA while a daughter preferred to study in Canada.

Vijay Khanna tells Gautam, “I lacked nothing except time for my old parents, young wife and little kids. I could not strike a balance between family life and joy. I was mad after money. I was running after status symbols…I messed up my life.” This attitude drove Khanna to utter failure in life. Simple words caution a man of materialistic proclivities to ponder over. One has to think of life in totality. If money can purchase relations, feelings and warmth in human relationship, what else, a man needs. The author poses a soft challenging question but throws hints to many rich people who live in inner miseries.

Man does not live in a vacuum but positive thoughts impart meaning to life

A lonely man in mid-forties, Vijay Khanna, convalescing in his apartment, stares at the walls of a well furnished house, and suffers alone. Despite luxuries of life, depression tortures him. Now, name, fame and fortunes do not provide joys or satisfaction. This drives him to philosophical brooding on life and existence that appears without meaning and purpose. He realizes the futility of life amidst opulence and achievement. Khanna reveals mental tension and bitterness in life to Gautam, and wants to know the substance of life amidst wealth and comforts of life. A sad story of a failed man Khanna begins in a restaurant situated on a knoll near Rishikesh as Gautam listens carefully and consoles his friend in a philosophical way while reading his mind and feelings. A man attains what he seeks so frantically, on persistent questioning Gautam tells Vijay Khanna.

If a man allows good, positive and noble thoughts to enter mind and heart, commitment to self-enrichment and self-image vanishes. Varied thoughts agitate a man and therefore, it is essential to adopt ‘time-tested techniques of thought control’. When a man creates boundaries of ‘self-image’, he does not grow. To prove his point, Arora goes back to Socrates and recalls his words, “Know thyself. It is the first step to free ourselves from the prison. Believe me, we are not what our self-image is.” In the first chapter, the author presumes mind a parachute, which on opening gives glimpses of life of adventure and thrills. A man gives meaning to life and he should know that an individual’s choice makes a life or breaks it when self-image does not confound a man.

Sad thoughts and feelings burden Khanna and he fails to get rid of despair and inner misery. Proper food and regular exercises keep a man fit and the author calls it the hardware of ‘feeling good’ while attitude towards life, work, men, society and humanity is a software of a healthy and happy life that permits a man to feel good. If a man is happy and cheerful at the mental level, everything appears bright otherwise only darkness engulfs him. A man must know his essential nature. A spirit of surrender of ego and self leads man to joy and contentment. To love is supreme and to give is divine. One must learn to participate in positive acts and thoughts of life. To give time, to share love, to share a few smiles, to participate in the joys of others around, fills one with joy abandon. When one learns to give, he walks into the realm of eternal bliss. Such positive thoughts are characteristics of a successful man and only then, material richness gives him happiness, and at that stage, a man grows.

Discipline, control and charitable thoughts enrich

A man must know how to control wayward thoughts. This is possible when one adheres to the principles of concentration through which he restrains his mind. Unnecessary and negative thoughts need elimination, and at least, pruning. To put hold on to unruly and errant feelings and thoughts, a man must remain demanding so that he exhausts himself physically and mentally. He must relate his activities to hopes and cheers, and this association would grant freedom from rebellious and hurting thoughts and feelings. For a while, he should sit still, close eyes and meditate, and then, penetrates within without permitting anything to intrude.

A man rarely gets happiness and success together. To feel fulfilled within is quite difficult. A man should understand his mind and body, and must think beyond mind and body, and grasp its divine nature. Self-fulfillment is impossible until a man stops hankering after material comforts, for craze of wealth, name and fame, ultimately leads to disillusionment. The author reminds that it is in the art of giving that a man gets genuine happiness. It is in the spirit of surrender. He says, “Surrendering is not a sign of weakness. It is an affirmation of your faith in the ultimate fairness of life. It is a sign of great strength and deep wisdom.” A selfless service to man grants true happiness. If you make others happy and sacrifice your time, money and comforts for the happiness of another man, it gratifies you. If a man inculcates virtues like truth, loveliness, integrity, plainness and excellence in conduct, he appears to be on the path of self-actualization. He remarks, “…self-actualizing people go all out to embrace opportunities for self-growth. They take risks. They face challenges. They learn to live out of comfort-zone and find ways and means to bloom where they are planted.” One must be genuinely interested to know life. If a man begins penetrating within, he will understand the real self, for heart and mind do not permit anyone to do wrong.

A man must act in the present, and love life and existence

The author of From Dusk to Dawn-A Journey of Personal Growth, is honest and straight. He does not boast of any original thought. He talks of no philosophy or religion. If he speaks, he speaks of man, of society and of humanity of which every one of us is an inseparable part. If a man contributes to the happiness of his fellow beings, most of the difficulties and sufferings would end. It appears simple but apparently very difficult. ‘Act –act in the living Present/Heart within and God overhead’ should be the principle of life and so he reminds us of Longfellow. A man should understand and prioritize main issues, concerns and anxieties of life meticulously, with a spirit of surrender, love and charity, and learn to live with nature and humankind cordially and meaningfully, and this would lead him to the ultimate purpose of life the author believes. A man should not allow a problem to linger on, for it becomes a burden. A constructive approach makes everything possible.

To love life is important. A man ought to value identity and existence, only then he would be able to love and value others. One should look within with a positive mind, and one would find everyone happy, cheerful and helpful. To help, love, respect and admire others is under the control of a man. If he imbibes these precious values, he will gain but he should abandon pretense and simulation. Expectation leads to disillusionment and so, one should only believe in acts of charity and sacrifice. If one expects, let anticipation know its limits. A rational attitude towards sentiments and feelings is essential to lasting happiness. An understanding relationship with others also grants happiness. Doing good to others without ever expecting anything in return gives hope and joy abandon.

Gita as a source of eternal inspiration

In ‘With Keshav in his Kutir’, the author reminds of the immortal teachings of Gita, a sacred book of Hindus, a part of the great epic Mahabharata where Krishna reveals philosophy of different yogas, particularly the yoga of Karma, the Karmic theory or theory of Karma (action). A man is incessantly fighting a war within. This invisible war continues and he cannot control. Many wars/ battles continue and disconcert a man. He does not know the enemy but still he knows. ‘Gita is a book of profound philosophy, applied psychology and practical self-help’ the author believes. If one understands his essential nature, one makes life enriching. A man must know that fundamentally goodness, beauty and synchronization of conflicting elements, and harmony constitute his nature. If a man peeps within, he will realize a unique union of truth, goodness and beauty. A man must know his power (cerebral and physical strength), and this necessitates scrutiny with a pure heart, and therefore, he should understand the meaning of truth, goodness, integrity, beauty and charm in right perspective.

The author attracts attention to a few verses (slokas) of Bhagavad Gita, which no doubt instill confidence and faith in man. Gita exhaustively speaks of life of man on earth. Here, he reminds us “The Steadfast Wisdom” of Vinoba. A man ought to be immaculately correct in words, thoughts and actions. If he acts in a selfless manner, most of the worries and anxieties of life will end. After the end of each chapter, the author offers a synopsis of his thoughts and gives glimpses of his personal experiences and one discerns the author is genuine and authentic in words and thoughts. Even if a man makes a little attempt to inculcate certain qualities and adopts a practical, sincere and truthful attitude towards life and society, he not only fills his life with delight and ecstasy but also makes others happy. If he quotes great thinkers, he tries to elucidate those lofty thoughts through his experiences and here, he is authentic, modest and clear.

I have not seen many books of this genre during recent times. However, certain newspapers and journals set apart a column or two for virtuous thoughts. A sincere, honest and transparent conduct of a man towards men and society makes everyone happy, hopeful and optimistic. “Something More –Excavating Your Authentic Self (A Warner Books publication 1998) by Sarah Ban Breathnach, “Tomorrow’s God” - Our Greatest Spiritual Challenge (A Hodder Mobius Publications 2004) by Neale Donald Walsch and “Wisdom of the Ages” (A Thorsons Publication 1998) by Wyne W. Dyer are books that instill confidence and faith in life. Some books by Samuel Smiles and ever-fresh Dale Carnegie are worth reading, for these infuse strong sense of faith, hope and respect for self. I am inclined to call it ‘A Simple Textbook of Hopes, Optimism and Enrichment’ everyone would like to read.


More by :  P C K Prem

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