Book Review of The Moral Compass: Finding Balance and Purpose in an Imperfect World by Hardayal Singh

Book Review of The Moral Compass: Finding Balance and Purpose in an Imperfect World by Hardayal Singh
Let's assume this situation. You are working in a reputed organization and your appraisal is underway. You have high hopes of getting a sizeable increment with a promotion to a leadership role. All of a sudden, your manager invites you into his room and asks you to poach some information to a competitor firm for some illegal commission. Would you be okay doing this so that your appraisal sails through, which will also keep you in your manager's good books or would you back off as you would be hurting the organization for illegal short term again. This is just an example of one of plethora of daily dilemmas that life throws at you with varying complexities. This book by Hardayal Singh, a civil service Officer, attempts to highlight through fictional and real stories of common men, that choosing and walking along the righteous path with an unwavering mind is possible but acknowledges that it is extremely difficult. Through these stories, the readers will get to understand that though the path has no or little trail, when one looks back one will feel satisfied for having left a trail, serving as a guiding light for fellow men. More importantly, enjoy a good night's sleep! 

The book has 17 stories and each story has a protagonist who has a personal or an official problem and faces a moral dilemma. The story sets the context, explaining the background of the dilemma, the protagonists' thought process, their insecurities and fears as they take the situation head on and the decision they take eventually. In the end, the author also offers his piece of advice or commentary on how to approach a similar situation and most of his commentaries extensively draws upon holy grails of different religions and sayings of philosophers. If one reads these books or writings of philosophers, it would have seemed a dry read. With Hardayal's presentation, the reader is able to easily appreciate how the age old sayings are still relevant and how one can apply them when faced with a similar situation. Further, this book also offers gyan on must-have qualities of a good leader and this book could certainly be made a recommended reading for wannabe Managers/CXOs. Hardayal Singh, the author of this book, is the former chief commissioner of Income-tax, New Delhi and some of the stories reflect his experience and observations as a civil service officer. 

While all the 17 were relatable, I thoroughly enjoyed 3 stories as I felt they offered a different perspective to handle the situation- One, where a son has to confront his ill-behaving father, second, which emphasizes on the importance of forgiving and letting go, and the third, on the need to cultivate detached attachment approach in certain areas of life. There are plethora of moral dilemmas and the situation each one encounters could vary in its form and complexity. This book is a sample set of such situations which the author has conceived. What I liked the most about this book was that the author leaves his commentary open-ended in some stories because when we face certain situations in real life, one cannot conclusively state that one has made a right decision at the very moment of making that decision, but one would get know only in the hindsight. 

On the flip side, I felt the run up to set the context was a bit of a drag in few stories and some of the themes such as honesty, being fair, staying humble etc. were quite repetitive and didn't offer any new insight. Otherwise, this is a short read, with excellent introduction by Gurucharan Das and fitting epilogue by the author himself summarizing the challenges that today's world faces and how we could go back to our reservoir of goodness and other virtues that all humans can always draw from so that we can make the world a better place for us and for the generations to come. As we all know, our life is a sum total of the choices we make and this book will serve as a guide post in helping one take the right decision so that we can manage to live a regret-free life in a world which celebrates success, wealth and power over other essential virtues such as honesty, humility, and generosity.

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