Ananya Vajpayee, Scholar

'In his dual capacity as a pundit and a littérateur, Das could hardly have chosen a more relevant filter for the ethical questions before India in a time of galloping growth, explosive conflict and dizzying change. Das uses the Mahabharata to trigger his reflections on everything from corporate corruption scandals and Ponzi schemes, to affirmative action and reforms in higher education; from the future of Gandhian resistance to the fate of tribal communities in the face of rampant development; from the quarrels of industrialists to the personalities of politicians. Sometimes he takes a detour through American history, German social theory, Greek philosophy and English literature; at other times, he recalls moments from his own life and career in India.

The book’s subtitle, On The Subtle Art of Dharma, takes us to the heart of the epic’s subject matter… When Barack Obama had to decide whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, and if so then how many, he grappled with a problem of dharma… When developed countries do not take steps to address the climate change that their technologies have precipitated, theirs is a failure of dharma… Places such as Gaza and the West Bank, where conflicting moral claims give rise to violent military engagements, are theatres of dharma… But when my friend must decide whether to keep his dying parent on life-support, that too is an engagement with dharma. It is clear that the term is complex and capacious, enfolding everything from "right" to "norm" to "law" to "duty" to "injunction" to "righteousness".'

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