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Published: Verve Magazine, Nerve, August 2009

A man traumatised by his parents’ death and a broken engagement found solace while reading Suma Varughese’s article on faith. Sitanshi Talati-Parikh speaks to the former Verve columnist whose book Travelling Light is an anthology of her columns written for Life Positive

What brought about a sudden shift from magazine journalism to spiritual journalism?
I quit Society (where she was an editor for six years) because I had become aware that the values I was promoting within Society and the values I practised in real life were in contradiction to each other. I had begun to understand that the purpose of life was growth and it seemed to me that immersing oneself in material pursuits was distracting us from this purpose. I was fortunate enough to join Life Positive (in 1996) which was then on the drawing board.

At what stage did you begin asking questions that answered some of life’s biggest dilemmas?
For 16 years I had been in a kind of low-grade depression and was a confused, unhappy person. Then I suddenly had an amazing experience. I discovered within me the capacity to flip out of my ego (or the narrow framework of one’s own thoughts, feelings, reactions, needs and wants within which most of us are bound) and really experience the other without relation to self. I could do this by uttering the statement, ‘It’s their happiness that counts, not mine.’

That appears to be a difficult selfless state to be in….
It was a state of empowerment and invulnerability because I simply did not mind what people said or did. Slowly I realised that putting the happiness of others ahead of mine made me very happy. And that it was an inexhaustible source of happiness that did not depend on circumstances, only me. I did not become a realised soul, but the whole jigsaw puzzle of life fit in perfectly!

EMPOWER YOURSELF

When dark clouds gather and melancholy wreaks havoc, many people turn to what is popularly known as self-help or motivational books. They provide direction, a guiding light and inspiration to get out of a troubled spot – or sometimes become simply a Dummies Guide To Being Holier-Than-Thou! Verve recalls some iconic self-help books (excluding religious or philosophical texts!)

How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch
Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, MD
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Chicken Soup For The Soul by Jack Canfield
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Reader’s Digest
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

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