Cultural Sunday: Ethical Dilemmas – Mahabharata and Modern Day

Sunday, February 21, 2021
11:00AM - 12:00PM

Sunday, February 21, 2021

11:00AM – 12:00PM


Join International House as we partner with Kalapriya Center for Indian Performing Arts for the Cultural Sundays Series. For this program, Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan, our master storyteller, lays out the dilemmas faced by the characters in the Mahabharata and starts a conversation with you into insights for similar dilemmas we face today.

We make decisions big and small, perform actions vital and trivial, which have a ricocheting effect on family, community, world, the whole planet, even the universe. And those dilemmas invariably involve a moral choice.

A choice between right and wrong is not a dilemma. A choice between one right versus another right is what we call a dilemma.

In this context, we have chosen to look at one of the world’s most ancient epics from India; The Mahabharata. This is the epic of dharma sankata, the dilemma of ethics.

Literary works, like the Mahabharata deal with the stories of good and evil. Not in black and white, but with countless shades of ever-shifting greys. We question the many tangled issues of truth, justice, righteousness, gender and race.


Dr. Gowri Ramnarayan is a playwright, theatre director, journalist (The Hindu, 23 years, now freelance), vocal accompanist to legendary Carnatic musician M S Subbulakshmi, and founder/artistic director, JustUs Repertory. Her witty, thought-provoking, visually interesting plays make original use of poetry, music, dance and painting and present a rare amalgam of aesthetics and scholarship. She has authored books – Abu’s World (HarperCollins), Past Forward (OUP), Dark Horse and Other Plays (Wordcraft), translated eminent Marathi playwright Vijay Tendulkar’s plays, and served as Fipresci Jury member at international film festivals in India and Europe. She is Chairperson, Rukmini Devi Arundale Trust; Senior Associate, Sruti magazine; member, Regional Advisory Committee, Indian Council for Cultural Relations; and guest faculty, Asian College of Journalism.


Daniel Epstein is an attorney and a former candidate for the Supreme Court of Illinois. Daniel made his mark serving clients pro bono in courts in Chicago and all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. Daniel has been published in numerous outlets, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss institutional bias in the justice system–how money, rather than merits, can determine outcomes; how pseudoscience in the courtroom leads to false verdicts; how conflicts of interest can infect courts; and how evidence can be hidden. And, most importantly, he advocates for solutions to those problems.

Arjun Jaikumar represents clients at all stages of white-collar criminal investigations and litigation, as well as in complex civil litigation. He has represented clients in a wide range of industries, including health care, oil and gas, commodities trading, financial services, insurance, and entertainment, and has litigated in state and federal courts around the country. He has experience in matters related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering, insider trading, securities fraud and insurance fraud. Mr. Jaikumar also maintains an active pro bono practice, in which he has represented human trafficking victims, low-income families seeking public benefits, asylum seekers and Title VII plaintiffs alleging race-based employment discrimination. He has argued several motions and drafted multiple appellate briefs in state and federal court on behalf of pro bono clients.

Srikanth Reddy is an author and his latest book of poetry is Underworld Lit (Wave Books, 2020). His previous book, Voyager, was named one of the best books of poetry in 2011 by The New Yorker, The Believer, and National Public Radio; his first collection, Facts for Visitors, received the 2005 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. Reddy’s poetry and criticism have appeared in Harper’s, The Guardian, The New York Times, Poetry, and numerous other venues; his book of criticism, Changing Subjects: Digressions in Modern American Poetry, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. A recipient of fellowships from the Creative Capital Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, he is currently Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago.


Registration is required. | Suggested donation is $15


This program is cosponsored by the International House Global Voices Program and Kalapriya Center for Indian Performing Arts.

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