My journey to becoming a writer?

Like everyone else I get dreams in the night but, being a skeptic, I never believe them. There was one dream, however, which I had way back; my memory fails me, but I guess it was in my college. This dream purported to show me the final destiny of my life: it prophesized the end of my life as a happy, old writer. I guess it also showed that I would be a successful one. But the skeptic in me, already having relented so much as to permit me to share my dream, would like to leave this bit out for now.

The reason my skeptic permits me to declare the rest is because, three decades after I had this dream, I have finally got the certainty in me, to call it my vocation: and it has undoubtedly not come easily. I look out with envy to all those writers who began their writing career early in their youth. At the age of 45, I cannot all myself a youth. Many writers whom I know have written their greatest works before this age. Some like Albert Camus and Sinclair Lewis even got their Nobel Prize by this time ! However, all is not bleak. If one would like to, one can draw solace from the other end of the spectrum. Dorris Lessing got the Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 88, Theodor Mommsen – author of the monumental History of Rome – at the age of 85, and Alice Munro – master of the contemporary short story – at the age of 82.

But heck ! I am not all too hung up about getting the Nobel Prize. In fact, that part is not one bit, on my mind. And I don’t think any serious writer has this intent too. The point I am labouring to make is that fecundity in writing is not limited to youth or middle age: it can continue right till the day one kicks the bucket. Closer home, my favourite Indian writers, R K Narayan wrote till late into his eighties, and Ruskin Bond is still going strong at the age of 85. By marshalling all these facts, I am consoling myself that I still have a decent amount of time left to write, and I don’t need to mope.

It’s not that I am beginning out as a writer just this year. Far from it, I have been writing for about a quarter of a century now. I had been writing my journals, blogs on social entrepreneurship and education, blogs on self inquiry (https://neevselfinquiry.wordpress.com/), website content and some NGO project reports. But writing was my subsidiary activity as an educator, social entrepreneur and self inquirer. It’s only now that I am claiming to make writing my primary activity.

Much before I started writing, I had been a voracious reader. One day, when I was in my 5th grade perhaps, my mother told me admonishingly that intelligent people develop a habit of reading; they don’t just cope and scrape through life with their school books. I was mostly a rebellious spirit since my childhood, but for some divine reason, I took her advice to heart. My memory is foggy, so I am not sure whether my motivation to follow her words was to do with the fact that I wanted to be intelligent, a good reader, or both! Whatever it was, it’s not a wee bit of exaggeration to say that a new Anurag was born, the day he took to reading books.

Words hold divinity for me. Words are ideas; ideas create perception; perception creates action. So words have an unsurpassable creative power. Reading got me in touch with worlds and worlds. I started out with Hardy Boys, as would any kid, of my age and time; I became an adventurer looking out for mystery and conspiracy in the deserted areas of my school, the hills around my house and the obscure by-lanes of my colony. As I grew older, like a wild fire, I soon started devouring the forest of books in our club library and in my father’s collections. Books on literature, psychology and management were the next fuel for my fire. The pressure of board and entrance exams put my reading on hold, temporarily, only to be renewed in the freedom of college years; the intensity doubled, with further genres of philosophy, quantum physics and self inquiry being added to my reading. Till date I have added several more: history, economics, politics, sociology, religion, art, environmentalism, social entrepreneurship. The availability of internet has ensured that the fire of reading shall continue for the rest of my life; without all this reading, it’s nigh impossible, I would have come to writing at all !

My love for writing started in college itself. That was the time I began writing my journal; an activity that I maintained with unfailing regularity for about a decade. It was mainly about knowing myself, fleshing out my thoughts and emotions, getting an order in the chaotic world, exploring and making meaning of life’s tabula rasa. I dreamed, one day I would come out with a grand unified metaphysical theory for life. Thus it was, that my mind was mostly consumed by philosophy and self inquiry, in the beginning years of my writing. However, an individual does not exist in a vacuum; willy nilly he is part of a society which shapes him, probes him, challenges him, and impinges upon him. Earning my livelihood was a huge task, as is the case for most Indians or Asians; and earning one’s livelihood in the modern world is not quite pleasant : to say the least.

All my reading in the past had created me into an individual who refused to bow down to the mind numbing, and blatantly authoritarian organizations, that exist in society. A new demand was dawning for my writing. Having already proved an incisive tool for my self inquiry, I had to enlarge and broaden it’s scope to create my own organization, and convey it’s vision to others. When my wife and I co-founded NEEV Trust (New Education and Environment Visions) as a non-profit organization in 2006, I began writing for the public for the first time. I became one of the first individuals who recognized the power of social media to create and enrich the work of Non Profit Organizations through sharing media rich reports . Facebook had not even started in India by then. In 2007, just a year later, we started with NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps – a social enterprise. Social entrepreneurship, which is probably an overused and overexploited term today, was in it’s throes of birth, when we started with it. On my writing lay the great creative burden of conveying a new vision of organization ethics to all stakeholders: having to cut through the skepticism of both sides of the economic spectrum – capitalists and social workers/activists.

I can say with a fair degree of confidence: my writing was the most significant lever with which we lifted the enormous burden of NEEV Trust, as well as NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps. In 2017, a major shift in my consciousness took place. Right since the inception of NEEV in 2006, and for the next ten years, I was consumed by my desire to create an organization: a space for myself to live and earn in freedom, while transforming society. In 2017, through all my experiences with NEEV, and my deepening self inquiry, I realized that this change cannot happen through any system interventions. The root of the problem is in man’s consciousness, in man’s thought. Since systems are drived from man’s thought, they cannot change thought. We closed down all previous activities of NEEV Trust (Neev Herbal Handmade continued for our livelihood). I wrote the article “Closing down of NEEV Vidyalaya (School) and starting of NEEV Centre for Self Inquiry” in March 2018, detailing my philosophy for ending all my previous work, and starting a new one. I started blogging in NEEV Centre for self inquiry, focusing totally on self inquiry, which penetrates the unconscious patterns of thought, and liberates one from it’s imposed duality of pain and pleasure.

As I went deeper into self inquiry, I had another big realization. Self inquiry, according to me, does not have an end. If one starts out self inquiry with an end – which for me is a project already compromised – then one can talk about an end being reached. I thought that I had started out self inquiry with a definite end : the ending of suffering. But to my amazement I found that self inquiry is much, much more than that. After a point, when self inquiry has burnt up much of duality and suffering, one sees that self inquiry is actually infinity. Life is infinite, so self inquiry approaches infinity.

Infinity is not linear; it does not have particular direction; it is not something that is bound to linear time, though our thinking makes it appear so, because human thought operates in linear time. Infinity is both of time and beyond time. Thought, human purpose, psychological time and direction are all interrelated. When one goes deep in self inquiry and disrupts thought fundamentally, all other processes are disrupted. One’s vision changes from finiteness and linearlity to infinity and simultaneity. Life, then, ceases to be experienced as something boxed into neat categories and dualities, and more as a multidimensional, multiperspectival, mutilevel and multidirectional flex flow.

In the earlier, ascetic phase of self inquiry, one draws back from life in an attempt to create a laser beam of all scattered thoughts, and burn through all the dualities of life which create suffering. Once the burning has done it’s work, the ascetism is transcended by an intense reabsorption into life; but this time, it is an embrace without any perplexity of duality, direction or purpose. A student of Indian Philosophy would call this a transition from Maya to Lila – from ignorance to creative play. And this is where my writer is born : in the ground of Lila. In Lila, life is no longer a suffering to be transcended, nor a puzzle to be solved, nor a mystery to be unravelled. It is all of this and none of this. Life is a paradox ! No particular system of thought can contain life. In Jainism, there is a concept called Anekantvada, which means many-sidedness. Reality is perceived differently from different points of view, and no single point of view is the complete truth.

In my view, writing has an unparallelled and most distinctive possibility to sport in this Lila. It abounds with utmost possibilities of becoming multidimensional, multiperspectival, multilevel and multidirectional representation of life. In fact I wanted to name this blog as Lila, but since in India this is also a common, generic name for a woman, my wife, most sagaciously suggested that I should think of a name which does not lead to any misconceptions !

In the spirit of Lila, I complied 🙂

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