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Showing posts from November, 2010

Need: Where Do We Draw the Lakshman Rekha

Following a class presentation by students in a course in Leadership Excellence that I teach at XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, we were discussing some aspects of the presentation in my previous class when a student raised a very significant question: When do we say enough when it comes to needs? Where do we draw the line? In other words, when does need become greed? Is there a Lakshman Rekha to needs within which we are safe and happy, crossing which we suffer?

There is a story by Leo Tolstoy that comes to mind when I think of this question. It is a beautiful story – one which James Joyce described in a letter to his daughter as the most beautiful story ever written by man. Joyce must have been in a particularly impressionable mood when he read the story and wrote that line, but the story is without a doubt powerful.

The story is about a farmer called Pahom. He was a small farmer in a Russian village, unhappy about his lot. When he heard that a lady who lived close to h…

Shakuntala: Flaming Indian Womanhood

Vyasabharata 2

Shakuntala stands for all that is beautiful in Indian womanhood. She would risk her honour as a woman for the love of a man, and yet she would not take one harsh word that goes against her dignity from that man. She has the softness of the softest flower and yet she is as fierce as fire itself. She is strength that knows how to bend. She is the courage to trust. She is silence that knows how to be eloquent when the need arises.

In the Mahabharata her story is told by Vaishampayana in response to a question by King Janamejaya about his remote ancestors.


When we first meet Shakuntala in the epic, she is the gracious ashram hostess who receives the honoured visitor Dushyanta who has just entered Sage Kanva’s ashram. The king was on a hunting trip and had reached the banks of the Malini where numerous ashrams were situated. The most famous among them was that of Sage Kanva and it was to pay his respects to Kanva that Dushyanta had gone to the ashram.

Dushyanta is surpris…