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Why do you take?

Devdutt PattanaikIn the story of Krishna, there are two episodes of vastra haran, of women’s clothes being removed. In one, which is described in the Bhagavata Puran, Krishna steals the clothes of the milkmaids while they are bathing in the pond.

The women are annoyed but not violated. In the other, which is described in the Mahabharata, the Kauravas strip the Pandava queen, Draupadi, of her clothes, in full view of the royal assembly. Draupadi is humiliated and abused.


Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik

In the Bhagavata vastra-haran, Krishna is violating the law but the intent is not malicious and the mood is full of mischief. In the Mahabharata vastra-haran, the Kauravas are not violating the law but the intent is malicious and the mood full of rage. Krishna wants the women to know he appreciates their bodies, in its most natural state, with wrinkles and all, without adornment. The Kauravas want to abuse Draupadi while arguing that since she has been gambled away as a slave, they are well within their rights to do whatever they please with her.

In both cases something is being taken but the bhaav is very different. Krishna takes to enable the other to outgrow fear that causes embarrassment. The Kauravas take to instill and amplify fear. Krishna seeks to generate trust. The Kauravas seek to establish authority. The yajaman who takes with the desire to dominate and domesticate is not on the path of becoming Vishnu. He will only create rana-bhoomi, not ranga-bhoomi, as he does not include the devata in his world. He wants to control the world of the devata rather than understanding it.

Case: During a training session called “Lets tell what we really feel,” executives of a call center were encouraged to write opinions about each other and put the chits of paper in a bowl without signing the names. The point of this exercise was to give feedback anonymously. After conducting this session with three groups, the trainer, Joe, decided to discontinue. For he noticed that most feedbacks were negative and nasty. Positive feedbacks that were few in public were fewer in private. Joe realized that those giving feedback felt powerful by putting down others. To appreciate others required a lot of effort, and external instruction.

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at devdutt@devdutt.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper. 

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