Clocking miles in the countryside
18 September 2019
Aditya Shroff, author of national bestseller The Best Life Ever, was born in Mumbai, and moved out of the city with his parents to their native village following his birth. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai. After passing college with a distinction, he gave up a lucrative career in the corporate world with engineering giant Siemens and subsequently with a Germany-based foundry, and made a life changing decision to move back to a simple, minimalistic farm life, follow his passions, and focus on, what he calls, the finer things in life which include writing, long-distance running, and travelling.
Shroff's writing rose to fame across social media when one of his blog articles was picked up by Singapore-based media group Eleven Asia to be published in their international issue. Thereafter, he authored the book, The Best Life Ever, which has taken the literary world by storm. In this interview with Swetha Amit, Shroff talks about the inception of his book, his love for running and life in the country side.
What inspired The Best life Ever? How did the idea of the book initially come up?
I grew up on a farm where these stories are based. Though I was born in Mumbai, my parents decided to move to the countryside when I was just a year old. Growing up in the countryside is a very different experience. When I started running, I spent a lot of time on the road. In the countryside, there is hardly any traffic so it’s just you and the road. It gave me ample time to look inward and find answers to questions that were lingering in my mind. A lot of these stories were formed in my head when I was running and that’s what inspired the book.
What got you hooked to running?
It started on the farm when I was a kid. When you are growing up in a farm, you end up running to chase stray cows or goats. You are running all the time as there is hardly anything else to do. Running took a backseat when I was in college but resumed it once I returned to the village. I was drawn to it by then as I was matured enough to understand the beauty of this sport. Running is meditative and helped me build a bond with myself.
Tell us a little more about yourself and your background.
After my engineering, I went to Germany for an internship. I was offered a job at the same place where I had interned. However, I decided to not take it up for a reason that may seem very ludicrous — lack of sunshine. As a person, I need sunshine and hence returned to India. I guess that’s the way I am. After doing another internship with Siemens, I realised that corporate life was making me lose more than what I was getting. I took a couple of months off to understand what would actually make me happy. I found my happiness on the farm and returned to it. Even if what I am doing is paying me less, its making me happier and focus on the things that actually matter to me which is running and writing. That’s in fact the central theme of the book.
In your first story, you talk about how the mind is scared about what it cannot see. How do you conquer the fear of the unknown?
In terms of the story, it’s as simple as what my maternal granddad told me. He said walk as far as you can see. When you get there, you just haven’t seen further. So, while its overwhelming to walk in the dark, if you actually try to walk in the dark, you realise that you are only scared of the demons in your mind. There is actually no real demon waiting to kill you out there.
That’s how the mind is designed to me. It tends to create fear so that you don’t end up in danger. It’s not just about walking in the dark. In life when you look from afar, it’s overwhelming not to know the outcome or what lies ahead.
Even in this literary journey, I had no idea about how to have a book published or how to go about it. I just kept writing one chapter after another. I happened to go to a literary fest in Pune where I met this lady and she ended up becoming my literary agent. I believe that you keep taking one step after another, you will ultimately find your way. Whether it’s in the dark or in life, it’s all the same.
You have mentioned that had you grown up in the city, you wouldn’t have been quite as alive. What is it about the countryside that allures you and shaped you as the person you are today?
I think humans work best amidst nature as the frequency of nature matches with who we are meant to me. I feel we were designed to fit into nature. Being in the countryside, I was exposed to nature in abundance. When you grow up in this kind of an environment, it tends to make you a lot more sensitive and gives you an opportunity to indulge in self-reflection. It has an effect on how you look at the world. Growing up in the countryside has helped me write this book.
In your chapter where you describe your tryst with coconut thieves, there is a battle of right and wrong going in your head. Have you figured out what is right and wrong?
That was an extremely emotional for me and it really affected me as a person. I still don’t know if what I did was right or wrong. I didn’t know whether I should have been shelling out justice. On that day, I went with whatever I felt at that particular moment. I guess it all depends on perspective. If you look at the poor people for whom a certain amount of money means a lot and they were doing what the thieves were doing, maybe they are right from their front. Being a sensitive person, when I think about it, a part of me feels I was wrong that day.
There is a chapter where you learn about success. What does success mean to you today?
Success to me is whether I am able to be happy with what I have and with who I am. My aim to be able to spread a little kindness around me and do my bit to make the world a better place. It’s not about rewards or awards for me. For me, if you can have a good sleep, wake up the next day in a manner where you are rearing to go, you are successful.
Never build your life in a way that others look at you and define as success. It is a disaster.
You have also talked about a phase where you were unable to write anything. How did you overcome this writer’s block?
Those were definitely stressful times. I felt that there was nothing that could come out of me as a writer as I felt the best had already been written. So, I gave it a break for a while and engaged in activities that were outside of my routine. I went for a run and eventually got newer ideas. My thoughts began to flow again. One piece of advice that I’d like to give to all writers is, no matter how big your writer's block may be at that moment, there will be a day when your thoughts start flowing again. So, don’t stress yourself and just give yourself more time to do something beyond your routine.
The last chapter talks about chasing things in the world that are beyond our reach. What do you think that was beyond your reach and did you manage to achieve it?
At one point for me, writing a book or running a marathon seemed beyond my reach. Taking a call to move back to the countryside was the best decision that I took. It has led to a fulfilled life where I was able to run and write a book. It’s a good thing to want something beyond your reach as it makes you want to push your limits and keep going until there is something growing out of the ordinary.
What are your plans? Any more books in the pipeline?
I definitely want to write more. At present, I am just waiting for the right kind of inspiration. I don’t want to rush through the process. Creativity should flow on its own accord and most importantly be natural. There will be more books in the future. It’s just a matter of time.