Last week I was trying to explain to my staff that whenever I was free, why did I keeping reading books back to back. Out of sudden I made an interesting statement. I said, “Deepak, earlier I used to read for my job, now I read for my life.” He did not say anything on this, but I looked back at those lines and found them to be good. The truth for me has been that while I was studying prior to getting a job, I was studying for my professional career, through which, I could earn enough to have a decent living. I was thinking physically only. Coming from a middle class family, the primitive instinct was to survive and to survive well. There were no high moral grounds back then. I wanted to be successful so that I could afford to feed, cloth and shelter me and my family well and the path to that safety went through the good and strategic quality of reading competitive stuff. I earned my graduate and post graduate dovetailed to the knowledge and exigencies and intricacies of competitive exams which obviously was my ticket to financial independence and subsequent saturation of basic survival needs. My reading list therefore centered around, Political Science, History and General Studies. I had mugged up the capitals and currencies of all countries found on globe-big and small from Burundi to Burkina Faso and from Chili to Chad. I would have mugged up the length, breadth and width of all sport grounds and of all important boundaries. I had mugged up the distance between moon and earth and between earth and mars and many more. I had to excel and beat those who were competing with me memorizing the GDP and inflation rates and distances of stars of even Proxima Centauri!. I had to beat the heat. I did that and by the grace of God, clicked to get selected. I was very proud of the knowledge but was it all one needed to live? Is the distance between earth and moon so important for non-astronauts like me? Does it really matter that I know the capitals of Latvia or Liechtenstein. I don’t think so, now. I had actually surrendered to the needs of the hour but all that I had amassed as knowledge was really very insipid.
So once I had settled in to job and got some sense of economic safety, I started looking around and tried to ascertain, what I knew about my life and people around me. I soon realised that I did not know much. While I knew about Akbar and Sikander or GDP or BPL, I did not know about how should I behave with my boss or with my ex-college friends or in job colleagues. I did not know about Psychology of a child or a father and this mattered. I did not know that Men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Even when I had become a proud father of two, I did not know how to be a parent to kids. I had learned from life but that was not enough. Suddenly I realised that I was the most ignorant and least educated person, I knew. Realising my limitations was first step.
This feeling of ‘knowing nothing’ started to sink in me and I was really feeling disgusted if not depressed. This was really interesting that despite being the proud topper of the Provincial Civil Services, I was feeling like a dodo. I was not mentally prepared for this. I was feeling like a deer lost in the wilderness of Amazon jungles. I could have been mauled by anybody. What I had learned till now was inadequate. I therefore needed to go back to my basics once again.
I started to talk with close friends and family members but most of them despite being successful were not able to realise my predicament of having low knowledge quotient despite being a successful individual. I asked my parents and teachers. Hitherto, the key factor of me, getting success in this life had been that I was good in studies and could mug up a lot and even most tasteless knowledge of Africa or Europe. I decided to go back to books. The different books. The topics were different this time. The first noticeable book I laid my hands on and which changed a lot of my behavior, was Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’. I bought this book waiting to catch a train at Aligarh Railways station from a wheeler book stand. I read the book and realised that it had a treasure trove of information regarding human relationships and friendship. I could also use the lessons of the book in conducting day-to-day affairs of my life, like in convincing the principal of Sophia School in Meerut in 2004, why my daughter should get admitted to that prestigious school mid session or why to listen first about people themselves than to speak, if you wanted the attention of busiest and most successful doctor of the city. It was a new tool in my hand and it worked. I smiled again.
There have been many more books since then including the most religious of Gita Press Gorakhpur. I have gone through the Upanishads and Puranas to Kalyan to Ashtavakra Geeta to books on food to those on travel and leisure. I have read books on marriages, sex, friendship, psychology, snakes, photography, and what not. My book shelf is getting richer and I am feeling more satisfied every day. Every penny spent on these books has been useful and caused serenity and peace inside me. I have found many answers and quest goes on. Now, though I have started forgetting the names of capitals and currencies, I feel I know few things about life. I need to know more…………