November 24, 2023
KATHMANDU – Gurucharan Das, a well-known name in the literary world, stands as a living example of someone who managed to intertwine philosophy and business. His latest work, a memoir, ‘Another Sort of Freedom’, delves into the intricate layers of his extraordinary life. Das, a business executive turned author, has been writing for decades now, ‘India Unbound’ and ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’ being some of his most celebrated works.
When he welcomed me to an antique but beautiful residence in Naxal, I was immediately put at ease by his humbleness. We climbed the stairs to the terrace, and began chatting about his recent work and his philosophy on life.
When Das was on a high during his tenure as the managing director of Procter and Gamble, in a moment of contemplation, he found himself grappling with existential questions, questioning whether the pursuit of corporate success was the true essence of life. He says he often wondered, “Is this what life is all about?” Soon, he decided to quit the job and work as a full-time writer.
Despite achieving commendable success in the corporate arena, Das yearned for a more profound purpose. Reflecting on those times, he confesses, “Even though I was selling products well, I thought life was much more than that.”
His journey from the hallowed halls of Harvard, where he studied philosophy, to the dynamic business world is pretty unique. “People ask me all the time, ‘How did you make philosophy and business work?’” he says. Though seemingly divergent from the usual corporate trajectory, studying philosophy provided him with a unique lens, and that was to understand human nature. Das further talks about this in his memoir as he says, “Understanding human nature is more important than knowledge of things in business.”
His approach to choosing the subjects for his books and articles relies on what bothers him and the problems he wishes to solve. This introspective approach also makes his journey of exploration and discovery engaging for the readers.
The memoir also delves into Das’s will to write his own story. His decision to defy his mother’s wish for him to study engineering in favour of pursuing Russian literature and Sanskrit language at Harvard is a pivotal moment in his narrative. Choosing a path aligned with his passion, guided by his father’s wisdom to “make a life” rather than merely “make a living” characterised his life.
In the book, he also shares his happiness mantra, “Love the work you do and love the person you live with.” This mantra, he says, balances both professional pursuits and personal relationships, as success is not solely measured by professional achievements but also by the quality of personal connections.
Das also shares his mantra for success in the business world stating, “Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.” This philosophy holds a delicate balance between dedication to one’s craft and maintaining a lighthearted perspective on life.
When I asked him what writing means to him, he dispelled any notions of writing as mere recreation—asserting that it is a serious endeavour that demands commitment and the right attitude. “Writing is not all fun and games; it is very serious work. You have to commit to it to get anywhere with it,” he says, adding that aspiring writers have to be disciplined, dedicated and have a lot of perseverance.
In a reflective moment, Das describes how he ‘loses himself’ when writing. “Being in the zone,” he calls it, adding, “It is a state of complete immersion, a departure from the mundane, and finding joy in the immense power of creativity.”
Another Sort of Freedom