An Incident from the life of Chanakya taught me ironing


Sometime in 400 B.C. emerged Nanda dynasty along the banks of the river Ganga, ruling over the Magadha Kingdom. It flourished for around 200 years with a great succession of kings including Dhanananda, who had his capital at Pataliputra. Sometime in 300 B.C., it was a chilled windy night in Pataliputra. Chilled, since a cold-blooded manipulator called Chankaya had attacked it and as a result, the political atmosphere was windy. Near the dark banks of the Ganga river, a small hut was the only source of light.

“Ouch, the food is so hot!” screamed a boy inside the hut, out of agony, while having his dinner. His mother ran to her offspring to tend to his burn and in the meanwhile observed the way her child ate his food.

“Fool, why are you taking the morsel right from the middle. Don’t behave like Chanakya. Approach it from the corners” rebuked the Mother lovingly. A dark man with his head covered with a shawl was observing this keenly from a small window of the hut. The man outside the hut was Chanakya himself who took a hint from a simple process of consuming food properly and rectified his previous error of attacking the capital directly. Pataliputra was finally captured after 8 consequent attacks at the corners of the Magadha Kingdom, by Chanakya and his disciple Chandragupta Maurya

To give you a backdrop, there was anarchy in Magadha under the atrocious Dhanananda, the son of Mahapadmananda. Taxes were unfair, women were unsafe, Brahmins were disrespected. Once during Vasantotsav, the festival marking the arrival of spring, many eminent Brahmins-including Chanakya, a teacher of Takshashila university in Gandhara, current day Afganistan and Pakistan-were invited for distributing gifts. When Chankaya’s turn came up for receiving gifts, he profusely declined it, stating that he could not receive a gift out of the wealth that emanates from sufferings of the helpless citizens of Magadha. At this, Dhananada was offended and hurled insults on the Brahmin along with making fun of dark skin. Incensed with his humiliation, Chanakya vowed to destroy the Nanda Dynasty in the open assembly.

Post this incident, Chanakya found a worthy boy named Chandragupta Maurya and trained him to be a phenomenal warrior and military commander. Once Chandragupta was fully trained, Chanakya collected an army and led an offensive against Dhananda. However, having failed badly in multiple attempts, Chanakya drew inspiration from a Mother’s lesson to her son, which changed India’s history forever.

Five years ago:

‘Instead of shelling out money and wasting time, why don’t you learn ironing your clothes yourself?’ came in a sharp rebuke from my Mother, while I was reading the above chapter from Chanakya’s life. Ironing a shirt was one of the skills which had eluded me for nearly two and a half decades of my life, to my mother’s growing frustration, reinforcing the belief that her son would never grow up.

The only way to solve a problem is to face it. To get rid of my Mother’s constant, however, justified lambasting, I decided to learn Ironing a shirt by hook or crook. Having received a ton of instructions through multiple youtube videos, I could never get a hold of this art. I stood near the ironing table and closed my eyes. A calm headed contemplation upon all the instructions revealed a pattern: Ironing a shirt starts at the collar and the collarbone area. From there it proceeds all the way to cuffs with the sleeves on the way. From thereon, it moves to the backside and later into the main body. It’s strikingly similar to the lesson that Chanakya received from the mother to her child in the hut mentioned above-start from the edges and move towards the centre eventually.

With 2-3 iterations and some practice, this idea worked for me and at last and to my mother’s pleasure, I was able to learn ironing and shirt effectively.

P.S. This might seem to be a very trivial application of the great wisdom received by Chanakya. But any application, however puny it may seem, is a tribute to that thought/wisdom!

Prasad Kulkarni is a Data and Analytics professional. At work, he analyses historical data and ponders over historical events otherwise.

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