Happy Birthday Ayn Rand

I wish I could say, Ayn Rand and I go back a long way. But it would be a lie. Not a lot of people talked about Ayn Rand back in my native. But they were well versed in socialist literature and leftist ideologies. I have read none of the is a different story altogether. But circumstances led me to find Ayn Rand and I am pretty happy about it.

It was 2007, I had just landed in Chennai. The promises that were made when I took train to Chennai and the people who promised it were nowhere to be seen. The hyper activity of the city, the stress and the helplessness drove me crazy. I couldn’t understand the bus classifications of the city. The fares varied differently for the same destination with the color of boards the buses came in. I had no extra penny to spend. Trains proved to be very useful at that point of time. I am not sure how many would know this. When you get down at moffusil train station in central railway station and walk towards the subway that connects park station, there was a used book stall. They had all the classics and pulp fiction. In the long train journey I undertook, books were the only solace. I picked up The fountainhead one day for sixty rupees. Just when I finished reading about the elation of Peter Keating at the graduation hall, a mad rush entered in Chennai Egmore station and somehow the book slipped out of my hands and fell through the door. Sixty rupees. It was so much money for me. But the image of Howard Roark stayed with me. The physical description of the man no way matched mine, but I still felt I had something common with him.

It was 2008, when I visited my then girl friend in Mysore Infosys Campus. We didn’t have much to do. So we were lazing around in the campus. She went to change and I went in the gift shop to see if I can buy her something. I chanced upon The Fountainhead there. It was priced 700 Rs. I didn’t have such money then. Fountain head almost slipped of my hand for the second time.

It was 2010, when I had money to spare for hobbies, I took loan from office to buy a camera and a laptop. With the remaining money, I bought The Fountain head. And as the cliche goes, it changed me. My approach towards work changed. It was really different when you are brought up in eastern wisdom all these days and when suddenly Ayn Rand hits you, you are back to adolescence. You will be torn between two things. To maneuver in the right direction is the key. I took something from Howard Roark and tried to be best at work. I didn’t mind putting in long hours as long as I perfected what I was doing. The downside was I was critical on myself when I fell short. But it was a great experience. I took something from Gail Wynand and is proud of what I had earned through hard work. No point in being modest there. I wish I was so frank to say I was little Ellsworth Toohey and used his tactics to get rid of some office politics. But I am not. The biggest downside of all is I started looking for someone like Dominique Francon. I cannot say Ayn Rand took my life and turned it upside down. But she had her impact on my life. In my day to day life. Small things I do. She has left her mark.

I can go on and on about her fictional works but let me stop here and tell you how another work of her’s found a way in my library. I used to trek. I was in the mountains whenever I could. It provided me solace. After a sprint in the mountains one breezy September, we took a break to catch our breath. One of the co-trekkers took a book out and started reading. The cover read “The Virtue of Selfishness”. I asked the person if I could borrow the book, he said he wouldn’t as a policy. I left it at that and we had normal conversations. But the next day he came to my home by almost midnight to gift me with a new copy of this book.

Lot of people have different ideas about this book but to me, I loved it. I am not going to give away much, but leave you with few quotes from the book. (Disclaimer! If objectivism don’t sit well with you, I suggest you skip few lines)

To love is to value. Only a rationally selfish man, a man of self esteem, is capable of love – because he is the only man capable of holding firm, consistent, uncompromising, unbetrayed value. The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone

Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know.

Oh I loved Atlas Shrugged too. Whenever people complain about me smoking, I had used this quote. In fact I had used this so often that I am now bored of it.

I like to think of fire held in a man’s hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind–and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression.

And of course,

How much ever she tried to forget her Russian origin, her words and literature to some extent, reflects her own birth and upbringing. People can dismiss her ideas, ridicule her for being so selfish, and imbibing the idea into so many young minds, but cannot fault her language. She is one of the reason, I started writing in English, even when it was not my first language.

Happy Birthday Ayn Rand. They don’t make people like you anymore. And Thank you for being there.


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