you can find the world in a person's diary who thinks He's the world

Oct 27, 2016

Two books which influence me

Two books, both of which I picked up accidentally have a significant influence on me. I'm not someone who picks favorite heroes, leaders, colours or books. Certain aspects of every leader and visionary, or for that matter even rote day to day events inspire and teach me depending up on my age, the stage I'm at in my life, my background and thought process at that moment. But, there are certain people, certain events and certain books that influence you. Sometimes by teaching something new, sometimes by questioning you and sometimes by providing deep insights.

I love learning. It is a continuous process, so learning new stuff is a routine. Sometimes, things I learn inspire me with awe, make me so excited that I share it with everyone, or ponder on them, think about how that changes how I understand the world and smile at silly thoughts.

Some insights make you wonder how you never thought of them, how they change your world and stick with you for the rest of your life. They change the way you think and become a part of your personality. I have a list which I'll share later.

Probably the only two books that I picked up accidentally were A Collection of Letters of Swami Vivekananda and The Selfish Gene.

I was probably in 10th class when I visited a close family friend's home. They are a joint family. Different generations of their family lived in one big house. While playing around in the house, we somehow ended up digging a pile of books. I fell in love with the books. All of them had book worms in them. I've never seen them.. book worms and that made me excited. I'm kind of weird like that. It was also the first time I ever saw books that old. Oldest books in my house were my father's and they weren't old enough for book worms.

While I was opening each one of them and marvelling at the book worms and the weird shaped tunnels they made in the books, I came across a book with a lose dirt coloured cover. A Collection of Letters of Swami Vivekananda. I borrowed it and took it home. I read it day and night, whenever I had time after playing cricket during the vacation. As you know, cricket comes first. It inspired me. It questioned my view of life and made me think about my purpose, why I was alive and what I can do with my limited time on this planet. It turned me into a change agent. After reading the book, I didn't want to be just another person. I wanted to do something. Something great. It then led me to choose a not so sexy engineering branch and end up as an environmental consultant. The book still influences how I think.

I was talking to a physicist about how phytoplankton recirculate in oceans when I read the title Selfish Gene on a book stacked in a shelf across the sofas we were sitting on. We were in a small library which moves up and down with the waves. It also had a lot of movies, old ones.. but still movies. After a thorough search through all the movie titles, we decided the best one to watch was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That wasn't a memorable movie. But that was the best we could find. Imagine the other titles they had. Lack of good titles is understandable because we were in the smallest library I've ever seen. But I was surprised they even had a library in a research cruise.

I was doing my Masters when one of BP's oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and cause one of the largest and most devastating oil spills in our history, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. A few months after the oil spill, I got an opportunity to join a team of biologists, physicists and oceanographers to go on research cruise through the Gulf of Mexico to study the impacts of the oil spill. In the library, I picked up the Selfish Gene and randomly opened a page like I was playing book cricket. I wanted to just glance, but started reading seriously. Beginning from a random page, I finished the book that night. I was thrilled. This book again questioned my view of life, made me think why I was alive and destroyed any purpose I was holding on to until then. It gave a greater meaning to my life, made me realize I'm one among a sea of life.. literally. It made my thought processes about purpose and meaning stronger.

I'd like to think picking them up was accidental. When we look at the circumstances, it might seem accidental, but when you think about what led me to those situations, it doesn't seem so. Before I picked up that book, I've already heard about Swami Vivekananda. How he was known to be a great spiritual master. I was already interested in spirituality. My dad has also suggested I go to Ramakrishna Mutt to enhance my skills and spirituality. I was aware that it was founded by Swami Vivekananda. While the book worms might have made me sit and sift through books (for the first time ever), it might be my existing interest in spirituality and Swami Vivekananda's name recognition which made me borrow that book.

I picked up Selfish Gene in a research cruise which is generally hired by geologists, physicists, biologists, oceanographers and such science nerdy types. What other kind of books could you expect to be there? Being one of the best books which illustrated and popularized the theory of evolution, the book was bound to be there. I started my Masters in 2009 and by then I've come across debates on evolution, genetics and religion that were taking place in the U.S. If I didn't pick Selfish Gene first, I'd have picked it up eventually. All other books were too technical and would not have piqued my interest after reading the jargony titles. But, what do you expect in a science nerdy ship?

No comments:

Twitter @rkharvel

    follow me on Twitter