Storytelling has great power, the narratives that we share shape up the beliefs and the world around us. What is more interesting is how these narratives have been a major part of history and present. With no doubt, they will influence our future. With my mind leading to a chain of deep thoughts, I thought to interact with the Author of the book “5 Questions of the inquisitive apes”.
Subhrashis Adikhari tries to answer my queries as well as talks about the book, philosophy, power of storytelling and much more in this interview. Read on, and do let us know if you have any questions for him.
Interview with Subhrashis
How did you nurture your curiosity as a kid and events that you would like to reflect upon?
Subhrashis: Thanks to my parents who have nurtured my curiosity by giving me the opportunity to ask questions; and I asked a lot of them. Special thanks to my elder brother who had introduced me to the world of books. I did not have a habit of reading until I was in class nine. My brother gave me a book named ‘Illusions’ by Richard Bach. The second book he gave me was ‘Brief History of Time’. Those two books made me a book addict. Reading makes you curious.
There are two things we don’t often realize.
Number one: We don’t have much time.
Number two: We have enough time.
And there is no contradiction between the two statements.
Any encounter that you remember that made you believe, that the instinct of philosophy exists within you?
Subhrashis: Human beings have a symbol-centric brain. Probably that’s why we have developed such complicated methods of communication. Language is a quantum jump in the evolution of human consciousness. Philosophy is a byproduct of that. The instinct of philosophy exists within all of us, that’s why its ‘instinct’. There has been no particular encounter. It just is.
Power of Storytelling & History
When did you feel it was important to write about your first book on history?
Subhrashis: There is a rise of polarisation in India on political and historical debates. Even the works of literature are divided. It is difficult to find a book that takes a neutral path. A lot of important historical events that made India the country it is, gets lost in the debate. I thought of putting together a book that looks at arguments from both sides, narrates interesting stories and lesser-known histories of India. I dedicated my first book to all those who love history – ‘the left-wing, the right-wing, and my favorite crispy fried chicken wings’.
When did you experience first hand the power of storytelling, and what convinced you to build upon the impacts of storytelling?
Subhrashis: I see storytelling everywhere. When I wake up in the morning and go to the bathroom to brush, I see a smiling face with shinning teeth staring at me from the toothpaste tube. That face is telling me a story. Such storytelling is everywhere. Like I said, the human being has symbol centric brain.
That’s why stories help us connect with people. Storytelling is the skill all successful speakers have. Being a regular Toastmaster member for the last four years have convinced me about the power of storytelling. I have seen how it helped me connect with the audience. Stories set us apart from the background noise of information.
How did writing happen to you?
Subhrashis: It started with my blog www.subhrashis.com. When I realized that I have a very small hard disk inside my skull, I was in desperate need of an external drive. That’s when I started writing. I travel to a lot of places, I read a lot, and occasionally I do use my brain and get strange ideas. I try to pen down those ideas before they leave my mind. These ideas get stored to my external hard disk, which is my blog. Now, when I am looking for something I don’t have to dig into all the books I have read.
All I have to do is hit the search button in my blog. When I was a regular blogger back in 2011-2012, my blog somehow managed to be amongst the top blogs in India. My kind and wonderful readers found the articles a bit different and interesting. Some of them requested me to write a book. I thought, why not. I have read some horrible books in my life, so I assured myself that I can do this. That was the beginning of this short journey so far.
IIT & Career
What was your experience with IIT and what is your message to the aspirants of science, art, and technology?
Subhrashis: While it seems like IIT is filled with boring and studious youths, they are actually quite the opposite. If you can handle the academic pressure then hostel life is fun. It is a place where you make a lot of good memories and friends who stay with you forever.
Whatever career one wants to pursue, they must just follow it without worrying about the results. There is no direct correlation between the marks you get and the career you make. Once you are in the professional world your personality and character matters. One way to enhance that skill is to keep reading books. Never stop reading. Reading helps reduce stress.
Sitting in a corner of a room a book can open a new world and new dimensions. Just remember two things…. a. When you are reading a new idea, don’t discard it too early if it does not fit your preconceived notions…. b. And do not let a book brainwash you with its ideas. Question what you read. As Mr. Einstein would say, ‘Never ever lose the holy curiosity’.
What are the common challenges that you feel while writing, and how do you work out on them?
Subhrashis: Finding time to write is a challenge in itself. Sometimes I do get hit by writer’s block. Then I do something else till the writer’s block gets bored and leave. All writing blocks come with an expiry date. The lesser you worry about it, the faster it will expire. The trickiest part about writing, however, is to stay away from your own prejudices. Any author who wants to leave behind a positive impact through her or his writing needs to understand what ones favored perspective is, and then try hard to look at other perspectives with a neutral eye. This is the part I find most difficult.
What’s the story that you keep telling yourself to be inspired and motivated to create an impact?
Subhrashis: There are two things we don’t often realize. Number one….. We don’t have much time…And number two… We have enough time…And there is no contradiction between the two statements.
If you read the ‘Excel of life’ section in my book you would realize how short our life span is. We are born with a terminal disease called aging. We will eventually run out of life. If you want to do something for yourself or for someone else, if you want to create an impact, do it now before it’s too late.
When you realize that, a lot of the things that you once thought was important becomes meaningless. Once you get rid of those ‘meaningless’ parts from your life you will realize that you have a lot of time in 24 hours each day. There is enough time for the office, family and personal passion. Every second is precious… Make it count.
Subhrashis Likes and the Future
Which authors work do you like in the fields of history, biology, human development or cognitive science?
Subhrashis: There are many non-fiction authors whom I adore. Authors like Vivekananda, Bryson B., Dawkins R., Diamond J., Harari Y.N., Hawking S., Mukherjee S, O Wilson and plenty more have influenced me to explore this theme. The books written by these amazing authors have changed my reading habit and ultimately led the path to my latest book.
What are your future plans with books?
Subhrashis: I have a few ideas in my mind. One is on controversies of Indian History. Another is on my recent trip on Trans-Siberian train from Beijing to Moscow, with halts in Mongolia and Lake Baikal. It was a great trip with plenty of nature, culture, cuisines, and history. The people were wonderful, and there are lots of stories to tell.
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