In this instant era, help is available instantly. Just reach out for the nearest self-help book and find a friend, guide and philosopher between the covers.
We belong to the instant era. Coffee is instant. Maggi is immediate. BMWs are delivered at the click of a mouse. iPhones are sealed in the blink of an eye. Information is at our fingertips. Immediacy is convenient and has certainly swept the youth off their feet. Addicts of the on-the-spot drug, their desire to demonstrate the idea in other intangible facets of life only seems like a natural, habitual consequence.
Instant friends. Instant love. Instant hope. Instant businesses. Instant relationships. Unfortunately, relationships cannot be stirred up, friends cannot be picked off-the-shelf and hope cannot be bought online. But they’ve found a way; a way that’s unique and fresh. They just pick a self-help book and peruse it, to find a guide, philosopher or a friend in them.
“Sharing your problems with the world has always been taboo,” says Teena Mary Thomas, student of B.Arch, Bharath University, “In today’s context, it’s absolutely necessary to find a way to vent your anxieties. These books can be just that. I was suffering from the I’m-fat-syndrome for a long, long time, until I encountered this fabulous book called Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight. In a few days, after I read it, I can tell you that I began feeling better about myself and am certainly a happier person.”
Philosophy is ancient. Since time immemorial, it has been told and re-told; written and re-written; recorded and re-recorded as chunky texts, as elaborate essays, as intense poetry and as surreal stories. The younger generation, however, has only recently acknowledged its presence and begun to accept its formless ways.
Are the new age authors working the magic or are the youth simply in dire need of help? Sahil Gore, 27, co-founder of the online library, iloveread.in, says, “Philosophers use language that is difficult to follow. New age authors speak the language of our generation. They translate the ideas of renowned philosophers and their philosophies in simpler and more relevant terms. In a way, this process of translation dilutes the purity of these theories. However, it also makes great ideas of life accessible to young people and that is great.”
A couple of years ago, 17-year-old Utkarsh Jain was frantic and fearful. He had just written his boards and was overwhelmed with anxiety. “There wasn’t a single moment when I wouldn’t dread my results,” he says, “My mother gave me this book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and coaxed me into reading it. I did and honestly, I thought that it was unbelievably silly. In any case, I tried its ways and they worked like a charm. Over the years, I’ve begun to live by it and I feel, it has enhanced my levels of patience and turned me into a positive person.” Do these books have a similar effect on all those to take to them? The underlying question is if they are plain, quick solutions to contemporary issues or if they actually inculcate those values and nurture young minds to lead better lives. Manisha Nina, 24, Student Counsellor, Women’s Christian College, says, “Self-help books can act as a great guide and lead people in the right direction. However, it is not necessary that all self-help books must work for everyone who reads them. Different people may feel comfortable with different books, according to his or her understanding of the subject. Many of them may not feel the need to accept what is in a book of this genre.”
The section has very recently been face-lifted, revamped and refurbished. Books like From XL to XS and Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight have also redefined the category, sprinkling elements of fun and laughter and filling it with a certain sense of freshness.
“New age books of this sort have spun an exclusive sub-genre under the bigger umbrella of philosophy and self-help,” says V. Rajesh, spokesperson, Landmark, “The narrative of books like the Shiva trilogy is a semblance of a fictional story and that grasps the attention of young readers. These innovative ways of depicting philosophy has led to a healthy double digit growth in the sales of books belonging to this family.”
Sahil Gore, an avid reader of philosophy, says, “It is absolutely unfair to club philosophy and self-help as the same genre. Philosophy will attract anyone with an inquisitive mind. Understanding a profound philosophical statement can give you an intellectual high that very few things can match. Self-help books cannot do that. They hardly help.”
Apart from the accessibility, relevance and the whimsical presentation of an intimidating subject, the complexities of today’s world also play an integral role in compelling youngsters to reach out to a source of inspiration and support.
Abinaya Rao, 24, Professor at an acclaimed college in the city, says, “We live in an era where we are connected 24/7, yet are very lonely. These books provide a platform for us to learn, understand and sort out issues that are essential to one’s self but maybe trivial to the world. Although nothing can change unless you really want to make a difference, these texts can guide and inspire you from time-to-time.”
Stirring up relationships, faith, health and friends does seem like a possibility. Instantly, pick a copy of a philosophical text or indulge in a dose of fanciful self-help. It’s always worth a try!