Hope: Wisdom to Survive in a Hopeless World

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Hope: Wisdom to Survive in a Hopeless World
By Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Juggernaut (2021)

Has the COVID-19 pandemic left you feeling shaken up? Does the world feel bleak and hopeless? In this book author Devdutt Pattanaik strives to find hope and resilience in a world full of chaos and unpredictability. Published in 2021, in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, it tries to serve as a guiding light to those who have lost much during these turbulent times.

This compact 165 pager holds many pearls of wisdom strung into five strings for the reader. Initially the author talks about hopelessness and helplessness and reiterates how it has been common through human existence. We are not alone in this situation. And neither are we being targeted. It is just that we are a part of a horrifying situation. Mythological stories from across cultures are shared to emphasize this. It leaves us with unsettling questions- can we rely on others? Can others rely on us? How do different people respond to hopelessness? Even Gods are shown as helpless in so many situations- but the learning point is to face situations with calm and grace.

He then goes on to assess as to why humans hope, and expect help. Humans, being social creatures have different expectations than animals or plants, and from there stems hope. He talks about scarcity and abundance and how humans dream of abundance without working. Yet abundance doesn’t give contentment. Every story need not have a happy ending. The world and more so, each person goes through good and bad cycles.

Now comes the diagnostic section where the author tries to evaluate the origin of hopelessness. By highlighting the differences between humans and other living things, he highlights why humans continue to feel hopeless even when a situation is long past. The world is objective, but it is our mind which makes it subjective and therefore elicits a response to the world. The author goes on to then share practical tips to control our reaction to the outside world.

Chapter four guides us on how to handle crisis. The author interestingly interweaves mythological context into real life scenarios and shares five practical strategies of stress management. Strategies that can be simply and easily applied to daily life.

And finally in the last chapter, the author shares seven key ideas to become more resilient. Here we learn to stop being the princess who was bothered by a pea and who waited to be rescued, and instead transform into someone who understands that there will be tough situations. The strategy to apply here is to stay calm and handle the difficult times herself. The reader can now unlock her true potential and realise where the power really lies.
The author is successful in highlighting on the importance of stories and what kind of narratives need to be retold to build resilience in children. Gratitude and generosity are stressed upon as key takeaways.

Devdutt Pattanaik has a mastery over mythology and has been able to convey different viewpoints about age old stories in his previous writings. This book, although compact and brief, will be a good read, and like an old friend, can be reached out to again and again when one feels the loss of hope and the beginning of helplessness. I understand the relevance of the book, written at a time when so many lost so much- emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. This book tries to provide practical strategies to reorient the mind, understand why we feel the way we do and help us reach back to objectivity, gratitude and most importantly, hope.

However, there are sections where I felt that there were jumps from one point to another which broke the line of thought. Also, this being a very concise books, the concepts are very brief and myths are only outlined which is sometimes disappointing when you would like to read the entire story from such a master of words.

Yet I would definitely recommend this book, not as a one-time read, but as a guide- as something we can skim through as and when required and feel centred.

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