14 May, 2021

The Difficulty Of Being Wise

Gurcharan Das pans an ancient epic to retrieve lessons for today

Illustration by Sorit
The Difficulty Of Being Wise

An Indian Morality Play

Duryodhana had many flaws but the most dangerous one was envy. He could not stand to see the Pandavas succeed and his envy is the driving force of the Mahabharata—driving it to war, death and destruction....

The sort of envy evinced by Duryodhana was not unfamiliar to me when I was growing up in Simla. My mother had a great and unrequited desire to be a part of Simla’s fashionable society. She envied those who belonged to ‘the club’, the glamorous Amateur Dramatic Club. She must have transmitted this to me, for I grew up with an acute concern over my position in society, comparing myself to those who had things that I did not possess, boys who were more attractive to girls than I was, and especially those who made it to the school cricket team....

In 2007, Anil Ambani was the fifth-richest person in the world according to the Forbes list of billionaires, but he was consumed with a Duryodhana-like envy for his more accomplished older brother,...

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