Once I got acquainted with the works of J. Sai Deepak, I was exposed to a kind of literature that I was never exposed to before.

Though I could say about myself that, maybe my idea of history wasn’t as flawed and blemished as he says in the below video, thanks to my travel experiences (fortunately I had the privilege and honour of travelling to many places across Bharat and almost all of them were solo trips where I could explore a lot), but I could irrefutably say that I wasn’t as knowledgable either and clearly lacked the ammunitions to have firepower as he possesses.

So, naturally, I read the works of Sita Ram Goel, Meenakshi Jain and Venkat Dhulipala. That’s the least I could do. And almost all of them were downloaded free of cost from the internet. And as I read more I also read the works of Rajiv Malhotra as well among the contemporary writers on Indic civilizations. And another gem of a book I discovered was “The Idol Thief” by S. Vijay Kumar.

I am yet to read numerous works of other authors he mentioned, particularly RC Majumdar and Jadunath Sarkar, which I am planning to read soon. However, reading all the above things doesn’t mean that I have stopped reading fiction or any other form of literature at all.

Non-fiction based on the Army and Espionage

Just that, I am able to dedicate some of my time exclusively to knowing more about my own civilization and the current existential crisis it is undergoing. However, I am expanding my genres to non-fiction dealing specifically with the Bharatiya Army too. And so do I read fiction and also non-fiction.

Below are the books that I am reading or planning to read along with the ones I already mentioned above.

Despite the turbulent things, particularly during mid-2021 that happened to me in my personal life, because I let them happen to me, as I mentioned earlier, it did very little to hamper my reading habits.

But honestly, the kind of literature I was reading wasn’t providing solutions to the problems I was facing, not that I was hoping for them to provide solutions to my problems. However, they weren’t having a healing effect on me as they had in 2018.

And wasn’t letting me make peace with whatever happened to me.

And here is when, at the end of 2021, I accidentally stumbled upon the name J. SAI DEEPAK.

It was in one of the videos by String (YouTube channel) that the head archaka of Chilkur Balaji temple promoted Sai Deepak’s book, India, that is Bharat and introduced him as a lawyer who was fighting for the rights of the temple and deities at the Supreme Court.

Just out of a whim I checked out some of his videos and was simply addicted to them. They were so much insightful and value driven that, I couldn’t believe that I was watching videos with rapt attention that was more than an hour long. Trust me when I say this, I can’t even watch a 10-minute-long YouTube video without forwarding it at some point. And here, there was a three-hour video on Article 370 that I watched and rewatched.

And without much thought, I simply ordered the ebook then and there and later on went on to buy the hardcopies of both his books.

Books that had a Healing Effect on me

And was simply captivated by the solid research that has undergone in writing a masterpiece. His videos and book appealed to me because they were relatable to me on so many levels. And the core issues he addressed almost always revolved around one phenomenon: Identity.

And all the sufferings I underwent in the recent past and in 2018 too revolved largely around that blessed word called Identity. And the other reason why I could relate to his work as I had experienced many of the topics he discussed. Just that I never paid any attention to them consciously. For instance, in one of his videos at Ayudh Summit, he says, that at least, learn one other Indian language other than your mother tongue. This will help you notice the similarities that exist between languages. And as he said, I begin to notice them consciously, as I can communicate fluently in a few Bharatiya languages and how much Sanskrit is casually spread among them.

(Maybe, will try to write an exclusive post on this sometime later).

So, I just simply got attracted to his work like iron to a magnet. And in that process understood a lot more about our culture and traditions and begin to actively decolonize me.

2020, the year might not have been a great year for many. Thanks to the Wuhan Virus.

However, for me, it was quite the opposite. It was among one of the finest years of my life. This was the year I had fulfilled many of my long pending wishes from my bucket list.

Actually, the golden period started right in September 2019 itself, wherein I got to do an extensive solo bike trip across the Himalayas and this necessarily included the long pending Char Dham Yatra. And despite the heavy travelling I was doing, I always carried a book with me and read at night before retiring to bed. One prominent author I read was Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie Collections

And the reading habit stuck with me when I relocated to a new place in January 2020, a place that was going to have a profound impact on me in the days to come.

And during these times, I continued to read a mixed lot of authors, mostly foreign. Some of them were quite popular and I have heard their names, or at least their work which was adapted as movies.

Works of Some Authors I have known previously

While some were pretty much unknown to me and now that reading before bed became a habit, I wasn’t limiting myself to any specific authors. And this was across genres, romance, thrillers, medical, legal, mythology, espionage, and fantasy. And owing to my location, I couldn’t always get a hard copy. This was the first time, I actually started reading ebooks, particularly the works of Robin Cook.

Mills and Boons Collections

And I repeat, though the start of 2020 had disastrous consequences for many, my life went ahead largely unaffected, owing to the nature of my job and the location where I was. And things were going beyond my expectations until September 2020 and then things begin to take the downside path, however, the good things in my life were so good that I didn’t pay much attention to the things that were actually going downhill.

And enter 2021, by this time, after all the trial and error, I clearly decided that I would self-publish my book. I mean, the actual self-publishing route and not through a vanity press. And based on some feedback which I have got, I once again begin reading contemporary Indian authors other than Amish and Ashwin Sanghi.

Works of Authors I wasn’t familiar with

And some of these works included (all of them through ebooks):

Love @ Facebook by Nikita Singh

When Dimple Met Rishi @ Sandhya Menon

One Indian Girl by Chethan Bhagat

The Rule Breakers by Preeti Shenoy

The Girl of My Dreams by Durjoy Dutta

You Are The Best Wife by Ajay K Pandey

So, on the reading front, I was still going strong and during the years 2020 and 2021 too, I have read quite a lot of books, written by authors I have known before and by those I just wanted to give a try.

Because Why Not?

Though the Gregorian New Year of 2018 started with a promising note for me as I have just winded up a solo trip to the Hindi heartland of UP and Bihar and attended a few of my friends’ weddings, one moment in the trip even inspired me with the idea of what went on to become the novel, A Thing Called Destiny, which I begin actively writing in early 2018, also had a solo trip to coastal Karnataka; things weren’t all smooth with me as the year progressed and by May June, I had let adverse things happen to me that had a distressingly depressive effect on me.

And despite the fact that I had secured a better job with a better package, and I was writing the first draft of A Thing Called Destiny, which was also progressing well, my emotions used to fluctuate drastically between extremes. And in case, you think it was a Love failure, it wasn’t.

However, retrospectively, when I look back on those times, they were a blessing in disguise that thought me some invaluable lessons, however, 2021 would go on to demonstrate that I haven’t learnt my lessons properly.

Writing “A Thing Called Destiny”, gave me some kind of balance and was a coping mechanism and helped me cope with those turbulent times. However, on August 24, I completed the first draft and was completely exposed to my vulnerabilities.

While in the office, Sadhguru’s video provided relief which I used to listen to while working. However, at night, I turned to the other thing I desperately clung to hoping that it will provide me solace was reading novels. And when you are making a comeback into this field after almost a decade, you would like to start by reading something familiar.

Works of JK Rowling other than Harry Potter

So, I started with Dan Brown’s Origin and then with JK Rowlings Cormoron Strike series. And this time, my reading rate was quite intense. I used to read for three to four hours every night. And here is when, I used to purchase books in bulk from a second-hand store in Moore Market, Chennai. And I was open to anything the storeowner suggested.

Indian authors I read during 2018

He suggested some Indian authors who were easy to read. I did genuinely enjoy reading “I Too Had A Love Story”, but others were, like, I said, a strict No. And here he suggested multiple authors. And within that time frame from August 2018 to August 2019, I read several authors and several books, rather with insane intensity.

And in that short span of a year, I think I have read much more than what I have actually read in my entire life until then. Some of these authors included James Patterson, Cecilia Ahern, Sidney Sheldon, Agatha Christie, and Paulo Coelho among many others.

And I wasn’t just limited to foreign authors, I read Indian authors too. And I found two impressive authors who wrote in a genre that I simply admire. These two authors in a way rekindled my affair with Indian cultures and traditions too.

Works of Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi

They are none other than Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi.

If one would’ve been following my posts closely, one could only assume that now that I was done with my strenuous preparations for the Entrance and had even entered college where the first year will be relatively free (which it was), and combine it with the fact that, before joining college I have even resumed reading; so it was natural for me to delve deeper into my reading habits. However, it didn’t happen.

Throughout my college life, my reading took a drastic hit and I wasn’t particularly reading anything other than my academics. There was so much to cover and so much additional software and things I was learning hoping that they will help me get a good job. However, that didn’t happen, at least not in the manner I intended. The only books I read were the new releases of Dan Brown (The Lost Symbol and Inferno, just after college finished), Airframe by Michael Crichton because it was remotely related to my stream of Engineering and I remember rereading all the Harry Potter series during the summer vacation before my final year commenced.

Harry Potter comes to rescue my Boredom

However, though my reading habit took a downturn, I begin to develop other hobbies that proved constructive, like drawing. Yes, it was a habit I was resuming after my Class 6. And I can say that I was making considerable progress in it, particularly in the art form called Graffiti and even dabbled a bit with Ambigrams (inspired by Angels and Demons).

And if one thinks my college years were worst for my reading habits, then my initial years in corporate life were even a bigger disaster. This could be partly because I developed other hobbies by then, like Photography, Traveling, and even I took to writing. I did have a travel blog (dysfunctional now) and also was writing a novel (not A Thing Called Destiny).

And during these years, say, 2009 to 2017, I think other than the ones I mentioned, I have read very few novels, maybe one or two a year. One of them was 2 States and the other novel I read was rather a forgetful one, which I found horrifyingly terrible.

Sensible books I read during my Initial Corporate years

However, I read two more books during these times that I found quite impressive.These were LOSER (Life of a Software Engineer) and this perfectly suited my times and I could relate to every single aspect written in that book. The Second book was Life Will Never Be The Same Again by Squadron Leader Jayasimha. However, during those times (beginning of 2018), I haven’t had the faintest idea that my life was going to take a drastic downhill journey and how that would rekindle my reading journey in a manner never happened before.

Over the years, that is from Classes 2 to even 10, which is considered a very landmark and critical year for a student, one can say that my graph of reading books has only gone up.

I could say that, I was averaging at least one book a month (across all genres) and could be somewhat called an avid reader.

However, that was about to change here.

Classes 11 and 12 (2007-09) were highly strenuous, though I can vouch for the fact that, I haven’t gone to the extremities to which my classmates tortured themselves in preparing themselves for the competitive exams by attending coaching classes and tuitions, I have to admit that, my focus towards activities other than academics was very limited.

And this was kind of self-inflicted because my parents haven’t exactly forced me into taking any sort of burden. They were pretty Ok with whatever I wanted to do with my career, even if it was preparing for the IITs or AIEEE or anything else I had an interest in pursuing.

And voluntarily, I reduced my reading habits and the major books that I read were those related to IIT preparations. I only remember reading The Alchemist in between.

Of course, these preparations weren’t easy and had a few self-doubts, even, you can say, kind of disillusioned. And, one can say, I begin to ask greater questions like, Who Am I? Why am I here? What exactly is the purpose of my life?

Self-Help books I relied during my Entrance preparations

And forced by habit, I once again relied on finding the answers in books.

Or rather, the books found me one day in a street side shop selling second-hand books while I was returning with my friend.

And two of the books were The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (whose work I followed until 2018 maybe) and Deepak Chopra’s The Book of Secrets.

Actually, The Secret had quite an uplifting effect on me back then and it in a way helped me regain my focus and maintain my sanity until the drama with the Boards and College admissions was over.

So, here again, I was left with abundant time between my admission into the college and the actual date of joining.

So, having not pursued any serious hobbies in the intervening time of Classes 11 and 12, I was naturally inclined to switch to reading books.

And this time, I went for two authors, one national and one international, who were making big waves and were quite a thing in my social circles. In fact, one of my friends had a collection of these two authors and I borrowed from him.

The first book I read was Angels and Demons by Dan Brown and was absolutely blown by the way the novel was written. Though I was sceptical about picking up such a huge novel as my comeback novel after a long time, the plot was so engrossing and was filled with enriching details that I completed it while staying awake all night; A feat I have previously done only for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.

Authors I read just after my Entrance Exams

And the Indian author I had read was Chethan Bhagat and read three of his books that were published until then. He was one author my mom begin to read (as she was transitioning to read English novelists), particularly because of the simplistic manners of his plot narration and storytelling.

So, through my previous posts, one could gather that Class 6 was in a way a transformative year for me as my reading habits too begin to evolve.

This was the time when I was making inroads into reading novels in the League of Harry Potter and also reading autobiographies and such works.

Also, our English literature as part of the school curriculum too became more interesting, or should I say, our English teacher, who also happened to be our class teacher made it more interesting. Because, as part of our curriculum, we had works of Rudyard Kipling, Ruskin Bond, O. Henry, and Oscar Wilde.

Unabridged English Classics that I read

And also, our English teacher encouraged us to read more works by Charles Dickens, R.L Stevenson, Mark Twain and such authors and insisted that this time I read the unabridged versions.

So, over the years, to be specific, before my Class 9, I had explored a range of traditional classic English literature that most students are usually exposed to like Emily Bronte, Jane Austen and the like. In addition to that, I have read the five Harry Potter novels that have been released until then (2004-05). It was also, at the same time, while I was in Class 8 (2004-05) inspired by the works of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, I begin reading anything and everything related to Space as well.

It seemed that Space Science fascinated me and soon I begin to actively read about Black Holes, Gamma Ray Bursts, and Dark Matter and Energy. It also begin to dictate the shows I used to watch. Because, while I was in class 9, I distinctly remember that, I watched a three-part show “The Elegant Universe” on Discovery Channel (if my memory serves me right), about a mind-blowing new concept called String Theory, presented by Brian Greene.

And I was taking notes of these never before heard concepts,

Also, the other show that I distinctly remembered was from BBC. And it was called the HORIZONS and there was one episode of it which spoke extensively about Black Holes.

Since I couldn’t follow up by taking notes properly, I used to anxiously look for any re-telecast of those episodes. It’s an experience, I think the present generation may not relate with.

Books related to Space Science

However, since there was no repeat telecast, I could find and my notes weren’t making much sense, I couldn’t grasp the concepts completely.

However, luck was in my favour, as I was going to purchase the newly released Harry Potter novel (Half-Blood Prince) from Higginbothams in Chennai, my eyes fell on a book titled, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. I immediately wanted it. However, I didn’t have the money for it back then and then that, the usual process of saving for the book continued before I could lay my hand on it. Over the next year, that is during my Class 10, I have not just read that book, but also a few more books on Space time and the related kinds of stuff.

So, now that it is established that, the kind of books I have been reading while I was in Class 6, one would notice that I haven’t read any contemporary writers in English fiction. I mean, I wasn’t reading anything new and happening. And in the years 2002-03, what was the thing that was the most happening? I may not know what was the most trending thing in other parts of the world, but one of the latest things, discussing which would make you look cool, intellectual and belonging to the trend was, HARRY POTTER.

The Harry Potter Saga

The Harry Potter storm was beginning to make its presence obvious in our school and this was primarily because of the movie and not the book.And this was for the very first time, an English movie was generating so much buzz, because, I belong to that generation where until Class 6 I haven’t watched a single English movie. And this was the case with many of my classmates as well. And this could be attributed to the lack of many English Movie channels available on Cable Television and secondly, to the fact that the stereotype that was established in our circles that, English movies may have a bad influence on us (You know what I mean).

So, you can imagine that when you are growing up in an environment where watching English movies on television wasn’t encouraged, shelling out money in theatres was out of the question for many of us. So, those who wanted to look cool had to go through this excruciating pain of reading a novel of length not many of us would have read before. And honestly, not many found it an interesting bargain to go ahead with.

So, where did I find the motivation?

Honestly, I too didn’t find it that exciting a prospect to read such a huge novel. However, a senior of mine, whom I used to look up to (obviously, a girl) was interested in the world of Harry Potter and one can say that, she provided me with the motivation to pick up my first full-fledged novel by a contemporary author, which I was otherwise skeptical about.

The Harry Potter Collections I Earned

And then, as they say, the rest is history.

Because the way Harry Potter continued to play a significant and tangible role in my life was huge and irreversible, which I may have to write about in a separate series of posts. However, in short, to give one a summary of the what Harry Potter means to me, one could say that, if I could sync my life with the Harry Potter movie releases, I could almost feel that I grew up along with Harry. A unique distinction only kids of my generation could boast about proudly.

Now that I have begun to read more serious things like news articles for my CCA activities and got myself acquainted with current affairs to win Quizzes and by then was also a centre of attention in not just my sections but also other sections in my Class, there was a lot of interactions I used to have with my classmates, particularly when the results are announced after the Unit tests.

And honestly, I would admit that it was quite a gratifying feeling for me when other students or toppers of other sections used to be interested in my marks more than me.

Particularly, there was this one topper girl from the other section, who was in the same house as mine (and I had friendly relations with), who had this habit of insisting she has a look at my test notebook so that she can learn from my answers.

This was fine with me and I too wasn’t very suspicious.

And come on, it was a girl who was asking me a favour and that too, the topper.

However, later I came to know that she used to compare my answers and in case she was awarded fewer marks for writing similar points, she would go to her teacher and ask her to award her the same marks as mine.

And there was this one time, she found that I was awarded marks for a wrong answer (it skipped my attention as well as the teachers, but not this Sherlock Holmes), she ensured that she brought this up with my teacher and got my marks reduced.

Despite, all this, I went on to win the award for the Best General Proficiency for Class 5, both sections combined and won the coveted gift voucher for Rs 480. And this provided me ample room to buy that one book by the person, who begin to have a great influence on me then. There was hardly a Quiz competition I attended, where his name wasn’t the answer to at least one of the questions.

Books that Inspired me to Dream

There was this one time in early 2002 when the Quizmaster showed his Photograph and asked us to identify him, and immediately, the organizers of the event disqualified the question as they found it too easy as he had gone on to become a household name by then (And later, we were shown the photo of Farookh Engineer and none of us could identify him). His name used to crop up in the news quite often then, right from being instrumental in carrying out the nuclear tests to writing books like India 2020, Wings of Fire and being addressed as Missile Man of India and who was eventually going to be the President of our country. He was none other than Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam: The One who thought the value of Dream and the need to Dream However, luck wasn’t in my favour and I couldn’t buy that book, Wings of Fire,(which I had heard numerous times until then) from the gift money from Jyoti Book Depot because the day I visited their store they ran out of stock.

However, I eventually brought that book from the Book Fair, later that year.

Wings Of Fire

And his works inspired me a lot along with a few other events that happened around that time. And it was here, in late 2002 and early 2003, while I was in Class 6, that I broadly decided what I wanted to become, or rather what career I had to pursue, of course, that is in Engineering. So, in a way the year 2002, and my Class 6 was instrumental in helping me make quite a few decisions that till day impact my life.

So, the good thing that I was speaking about in my previous post came in the form of me finding my strong forte in the CCA events and also helped me expand my reading avenues. Until then, I have only read fiction, but to win prizes in Essay Writing, Debates and Elocutions, reading Jules Vernes or Charles Dickens won’t suffice.

You need to be aware of current affairs and popular topics like Global Warming, Environmental Pollution, and The Importance of Sports for Students, Is Watching TV Good or Bad? and stuff.

Non Fiction books I read

And here is where my years of reading Gokulam came to my help and it provided me with a starting point to refer to any of the topics that I wanted to prepare. Additionally, there were dedicated books related to Essay writing that I had to buy and add to my collections.

Though, the participation in Elocutions and Debates slowly contributed to my gaining confidence in Public speaking and it largely and easily removed one of the greatest fears one could have, at least that’s what my classmates used to tell me: the stage fear and the fright of public speaking.

However, participation in CCA events helped me discover that I was pretty inclined towards Quiz competitions and I actually went on to represent my school in many Quizzes in Visakhapatnam. This helped me interact with students from other schools and gain valuable insights from them at times. (Later in the post, I will mention a student celebrity I met as well).

And it also helped me meet students whom I have known only through their writings or drawings in School Chronicle. I know I am digressing a bit here. But that is what reading does to you eventually. You don’t remain stuck reading alone

Back then, Deccan Chronicle used to invite school students to submit essay entries and drawings on a topic they had provided every week and will publish the best content in its supplementary School Chronicle.

There was prize money involved here as well. So, this was something that I used to actually look forward to while I was in Classes 5 and 6 and used to write on varied topics. And as luck might have it, I secured a third prize for the very first entry I submitted and this made me look forward to writing every week thereafter. I won prizes in a fair few of them and got published several more times.

I used to draw a bit too and have submitted them as well at times, after all, half of the novels I used to read had easy-to-draw line drawings as half of their content. And given that my mom was an Artist too, I naturally took to drawing as well.

KBC: The show that changed Television

So, getting back to the topic, to win quizzes back in my school and in Inter school tournaments, reading novels alone won’t suffice. Of course, it will help you answer questions related to Who wrote which book or which novel had these famous quotes among others, but literature wasn’t the only section. So, here is when I took to reading newspapers and I developed a particular liking for Young World which was supplementary to The Hindu. Also, my participation in quizzes led me to buy books like the Manorama Yearbook, and Mastermind by Siddhartha Basu among many others.

This also played a decisive role in driving me to watch specific kinds of programs on TV too.

So, the programs that became my regular were, Bournvita Quiz Contest hosted by Derek O Brian, and its variations aired on various regional channels. I don’t remember the exact program name or the channel, but I remember that actress Kasthuri used to host one such Quiz program in Tamil.

And who can forget the epic Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC)?

And as I said before that I will post about a student celebrity I have met, so where am I going to fulfil that promise? Does the name Ravi Sahni ring a bell?

Ravi Sahni: the winner of KBC Junior

For the 90’s kids, he is remembered as the first Junior Crorepati who won 1 crore in KBC. And he was from the same school as mine, but in a different location I had met him once at an Inter school quiz completion our school was hosting and he was kind enough to share his experiences with me to prepare me for the quiz.