Kamla K. Kapur’s GANESHA GOES TO LUNCH: Classics from Mystic India (Mandala Publishing, $14.95), offer both a window into a fascinating culture that has endured for thousands of years, and a code for living that can be applied to the modern world. The 24 insightful myths, recreated and embellished, reveal timeless insights into the human condition. Yoga + Joyful Living magazine has said: “Kapur has done yoga students a huge favor by collecting some of the best-loved tales of Hindu mythology and explaining their underlying spiritual meaning. This gorgeously illustrated book retells ancient tales with a delightful modern sensibility.”
Kamla K. Kapur, a resident of Himachal Pradesh, lives in a remote region of the Kullu Valley, The Valley of the Gods. Many of the heroes in Kapur’s book are worshipped in the temples of the region.
5% of the net royalties from Ganesha Goes to Lunch will be donated to My Himachal.
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An IT professional for 17 years, based in the US since the last 12 years. Founded NGO My Himachal and then Himachal Media Pvt. Ltd.. A Himachali forever. Always trying to bring together people whose hearts beat for the state.
â€˜Ganesha Goes to Lunchâ€™ unveiled
Chandigarh, October 13
The Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi organised a dramatic rendering and release of US-based Indian author Kamla K. Kapurâ€™s book â€œGanesha Goes to Lunch; Classics from Mystic Indiaâ€ at a simple but highly impressive function at the Government Museum auditorium, here, today.
Chief guest on the occasion, acclaimed thespian Padmashri Ram Gopal, brought alive the splendour of Kamalaâ€™s intellectual and imaginative vigour through an immaculate rendering of her stories â€œMeenakshiâ€ and â€œChamkana Ek Chamkeele Chaand Kaâ€.
Rather, her genius as a prolific writer blossomed in all its splendour in the Hindi translation of her works by the master thespian.
Born and raised in the cradle of nature – Himachal Pardesh, internationally acclaimed poet, playwright and short story writer Kamla K. Kapur is steeped to the core, in the Hindu way of life and her classic literary creations are inspired by the spiritual and Indian mythological themes.
She read out her poems â€œThe Bird who Fought Warâ€ and â€œThe Toad Who Did Not Crookâ€, both drawing their thematic essence from the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Talking to TNS, Kamla opined that none of the literary works in the world have influenced the social and cultural life as much as these epics have. â€œMythology is the sub-conscious level or the deeper layer of human psychology which inspires me to weave the emotions in the deeper and sereneparadigm of words,â€ remarked Kapur.
â€œGanesha Goes to Lunchâ€, brought out by Mandala Publishing, USA, brings 24 insightful tales from the traditional Indian stories and part of the sale will go to Developing Indian Resources, an NGO, added Kapur. The NGO chief Dr Fredrich Shaw and Kapurâ€™s artist husband Payson Stevens, also spoke on the occasion. Earlier, akademi chairperson Kamal Tewari welcomed the guests and Nonika Singh conducted the programme.
BOOKS: Kamla Kapur’s Ganesha Goes to Lunch (Q&A)
Kamla Kapur is a writer and poet who divides her time between San Diego and Himachal Pradesh, in India. Her latest book, Ganesha Goes to Lunch: Classics from Mystic India, attempts to re-tell some of the myths many of us heard in various forms, growing up. We asked Kamla a few questions about her adaptations, as well as the marketing of the book. She suggests that Indian myths “show us a way to transcend the conflict of duality with which most of us our afflicted.”
For more on Ganesha Goes to Lunch, visit its Amazon page or check out the publisher’s page, at Mandala.
SAJAforum: What inspired you to write this? The description says the tales are relevant to ‘modern times’. How’s that?
When five of my short stories based on retelling of Indian myths were published in Parabola, the Journal of Tradition, Myth and the search for Meaning, I thought about writing this book. Then Raoul Goff, publisher of Mandala Publishing, visited our home, and when I mentioned my concept of the book, he was very interested.
As for the inspiration part: I have always been interested in mythology in general, and Indian mythology in particular, for its artistic, psychological and spiritual potential. Characters in myths are manifestations of human possibility. They are models of how we can be, or live, and what we can become, no matter in what times we live. The myths continue to offer solace and wisdom even now, in this modern age. Myths have the great, practical value of mitigating anxiety, stress, offering archetypal perspectives to alleviate suffering, and reconciling us to life as it is. When my father died in early April, incredulous with grief, I asked my husband, Payson, “is this a dream?” His initial answer of “no,” was followed, after a pause, by, “yes, it’s Vishnu’s dream!” His answer gave a perspective to my grief, and reminded me of the dream-like nature of life and death. In the Hindu view, separation is part of the trick that Maya, the illusion of the world, plays on us. We are just figments of Vishnu’s dream. Even our so-called ‘real’ selves are actors in a dream world where the line between what is real or not is fluid and always in flux. You can’t take the dream too seriously, for it has an end when we awaken.
The greatest of our tragedies and losses is death â€“ the fear of it for ourselves and for those we love. Myths in every culture talk about the eternal regeneration of the self. Vishnu reincarnates again and again, and that is why the faith in individual reincarnation is very strong in India. The myth of the eternal return is counterbalanced by the desire of all holy men to transcend the recurring cycle of birth and death and attain Nirvana, or liberation. And Hindu myths and philosophy teach us how to do this.
Who is it being marketed to?
The book is mainly being marketed in the West, though I am told that Mandala has a healthy market in India as well. Indians may not buy the book thinking it is old hat, but the stories are being told in a new way for a modern audience, and I hope that Indians buy the book as well. There are stories in it that have been told to me verbally which are not found in any texts.
Also, though as an Indian you may be familiar with the images, say, of Shiva of Lakshmi or Ganesha, you may not be aware of the significance, depth and value of the stories. When something is all around you it can also become a clichÃ©, something that you are familiar with in an unconscious sort of way. Though I knew that Ganesha had an elephant’s head, and that Shiva wore a tiger’s skin, I did not know why, or their significance.
Tell me about the process: Which stories did you choose to not include, and why?
I didn’t want to choose stories that were too long â€“ given the crunch for time in almost every country (we have capitalism to thank for it!), most people like short stories with a punch. I picked stories that resonated with me personally. Also, while I was writing them, a friend of mine read some of the stories in manuscript to her young boy, and that reminded me to go easy on the sexual content.
It’s become apparent to me that many of the stories we read or were told as younger children had been sanitized. Sometimes the complexity of certain characters was erased, or violence was made to seem heroic. What are your thoughts on all of this, especially in this era when children’s stories are darker and anticipate that they can absorb more complex realities, like adults.
Because the stories we were told as children we sanitized, or told with a bias and a motive to make us follow the straight and narrow, it is imperative that stories be retold with each generation, to update their relevance, and to broaden their base to include a more expanding consciousness. Complexity of characters must always be maintained and enhanced to reflect all the contradictions of human nature, but in a comprehensible, simple way. Such complexity is inherent in the Hindu pantheon. Because the gods in Hindu mythology are echoes of us (or the other way around), they have many human weaknesses. Both the weaknesses and divinity of the gods reflect humans in all their contrary complexity, and both offer us gifts. Lord Indra, for example, is full of lust, addicted to soma, and goes into fits of rage. Shiva is the god of sexual orgies and also of the ascetic recluses. Vishnu is supremely detached, but he is also very entangled in the affairs of earth. These traits help us to identify with the gods because we are also a mix of these contraries. They also reassure us that despite all our weaknesses, we are also part of the godhood. The stories of the gods and their shortcomings take us through the arc of human error and let us see the consequences of our behavior. There would be no stories without weaknesses. Our weaknesses also have a profound role to play in our evolution. They keep us humble, and as in Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian and Sumerian myths, pride is the worst of the human weaknesses because arrogance above all keeps us from true knowledge, wisdom, wonder and awe. Weaknesses are the gateways to truth.
I disagree with you about the violence part. Though it is necessary, if one is to live an aware existence, to eschew unnecessary violence and conflict, a great deal of violence is inherent in the very fabric of life, and this is reflected in our art and our stories. Even in our own day many movies show violence in a heroic light. I myself balk at it while realizing its existence in almost all spheres of our life. Violence and death go hand in hand, and there would be no life without death.
The success of Maurice Sendak’s children’s stories, or even the violence inherent in our nursery rhymes, is evidence that children can and do absorb and accept this basic fact far more readily than we adults think. And in a way the stories and rhymes reconcile the children to an ineluctable fact of life. I have taught world mythology to many classes, and even teenagers ‘get’ the myths from all over the planet because they resonate in their souls. Myths from different parts of the world express different parts of ourselves.