My friends and I were once on a Goa trip. During our train journey from Vasco da Gama, I noticed that my friend was carrying Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Now, I had heard tales about parasmani (a stone that is said to have the ability to convert everything into gold), and I immediately felt like giving the book a try. Little did I know at the time that it was going to mark the start of my reading journey.
The next book I read was A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Wings of Fire, and I must say that the book taught me to dream big in life. After all, if a fisherman’s son could become the Missile Man of India, it was not far-fetched for me to dream of making it to the IIT! However, it was easier said than done. The path to this dream was full of daily battles, which, going by my test scores, seemed to suggest that I was losing.
I talked about this to my mother, who advised me to read the Bhagavad Gita to familiarize myself with the concept of nishkama karma, or selfless action. The book brought a 360-degree change to my outlook on life and success, helping me emerge triumphant in the long run.
Another life lesson books taught me, albeit the hard way, was to always speak the truth. M.K. Gandhi’s My Experiments with Truth was especially helpful in this regard. However, as they say, truth can sometimes land you in trouble. I got a first-hand experience of this when I once told my friend that eating non-vegetarian food was harmful to health – no offense to anyone out there! However, I did not really have any arguments to back my stand. A simple advice from Michael Pollan in his bestseller, Food Rules, came in pretty handy at the time – don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food!
Books kept broadening my horizons. It was during this journey that I had the opportunity to interact with one of India’s greatest scientists, C.N.R. Rao. He encouraged me to learn and relearn things. This advice was further vindicated by a tip given in Peter Brown’s Make it Stick – when learning is harder, it’s stronger and lasts longer.
Reading also improved my efficiency and boosted my career growth. I read a lot of books on biotechnology and medical science, which helped me tell a real doctor from a quack. This knowledge was worth its weight in gold when we were moving from one hospital to another to try and save my niece’s life.
I have been reading two books of late – Of Counsel by Arvind Subramanian, to get a better grip on the country’s financial affairs, and Lying by Sam Harris, to understand how some of us are murderers or thieves but choose to keep lying to ourselves throughout our lives.
All in all, reading was something I started incidentally, but has now become an integral part of my life.
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