“What you do for earning and what you do for living are two different things. We often confuse the two and that, I believe, is one of biggest tragedies happened to the modern men,” said Shailendra Gulhati in his voice that carried authority yet delicacy. His case makes an excellent example of his philosophy as this invaluable gem of our city is certainly doing good at what he does for earning but what he does for living is something that not only he, but everyone in state and country is proud of. Shailendra Gulhati, who looks and lives younger than what his age may suggest, is following his passion and also bringing laurels to the state since past 21 years with his illustrious work on Lord Shiva.
Coming from one of the oldest and biggest business family in the city, Shailendra was always passionate about spirituality which was path-breaking, to say the least for someone who had grown up learning the finer aspects of business. “Although the conversations in our family used to revolve around business, there was no loss of spirituality either. While my grandfather taught me business skills, my grandmother who was a religious lady recited me poems and stories about the divinity. This lead to me leaning towards this subject and I remember writing my first poem ‘the seedling’ at the age of 13. Then as I moved up to higher spiritual literature from the great masters of spirituality such as Vivekananda and Yogananda, I was deeply moved towards the subject. Some 21 years ago, after I had read quite a fair bit, I decided to write a book, and thus ‘The Yogi and The Snake’ happened,” he shares.
‘The yogi and the snake- a spiritual diary of an inner sojourn’ is a spiritual dialogue between the seeker, the snake and the master, Shiva. The book that came out in 1995 was a hit among spiritual readers and got tremendous appreciation from readers as well as writers, within and out of the state. Shailendra admits it was the book which made him a famous name; however the outreach to the common man was very low as it was a self published book and only a few thousand copies were published. Shailendra started writing in newspapers regularly and after much appreciation and constant insistence from fellow writers, he came out with his second book ‘Naam Roop- a tribute to the divine’ in 2006. The book was in collaboration with Arpana Caur, a noted artist of the country and carried 34 poems of Shailendra along with 34 paintings from Caur. The foreword to the book was given by none other than his holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.
As the popularity of various social networking sites started soaring, Shailendra started interacting with people on facebook and twitter, sharing his writing with a bigger audience. As he gained another level of popularity, he released the e-book version of ‘The Yogi and The Snake’ which became an amazon bestseller in no time. He followed his work with his third book in the middle of 2015, named ‘Shiva Poetry’, which was a compilation of 51 poems and prayers to Lord Shiva. Shailendra ended the year with another hit- ‘Lord Shiva: the ultimate time traveller’, the first installment of a trilogy dealing with different phases of Lord Shiva’s life from his birth to his marriage to speculating where he is today and what might he be doing. Continuing the dream run for him, this book was also a bestseller on amazon.
We asked him, why out of 33 Crore deities one has in Hindu religion, he chose only Lord Shiva to write on. The answer came with a big and bright smile, “In Hinduism we are free to follow our ‘Isht’ and what I had learnt since my childhood was that one should always choose to worship with which you identify yourself. Although I like all Gods as they are all different incarnations of one but I particularly love Shiva’s symbolism and find his attributes very humane. He wears his hair long, he is the master of stillness, yet he is a master of cosmic dance; he is a solitary meditator, yet he is the chief of many ‘gana’s’; he is a spiritual guru, yet he uses intoxicants. He is the perfect fountainhead where all the extremes, all the opposite coincide and that’s what makes him relatable to me, and hence my fascination with Lord Shiva in particular.”
Shailendra’s work is much popular among spiritual readers and he has a huge fan group among whom he has managed to carve out a niche for himself. He is among the very few people from the state who has got the opportunity to speak at national and international platforms. Shailendra was invited to 2014 edition of Jaipur Literature Festival, biggest literature event of India and possibly of world. As it has become his habit, he left the audience there in awe with his words and attracted attention of many people. One of them, Ambassador of India in Thailand, Harsh Vardhan Shringla was deeply impressed and thus he was invited to the Festival of India, 2015 as one of the 5 top Indian spiritual writers to participate in event, that was witnessed by over 100,000 people.
The second edition of The Festival of India, a 3 month long event organized by the embassy of India in Thailand, was an effort to introduce the contemporary India to Thailand, while emphasizing at the same time the close ties of history and culture two countries enjoy. The special feature of the festival was a literary program called ‘Words on Water’, in which Shailendra shared the stage with prominent Indian Contemporary authors- Vikas Swarup, Shobhaa De, Arshia Sattar, Namita Gokhale, Amrita Tripathi. Graced by the presence of her Royal Highness Princess Mahachakri Sirindhorn, the event featured Shailendra talking on “Path of the Mystic” for which he was widely applauded and appreciated by a very large audience.
Shailendra is currently working on the next installments of the trilogy; a project which he says is very close to his heart, trying to expand what is already known in a modern way. “The second part of the series would be the story of Shiva and Parvati and how would they be doing in the modern world. The work on the book is almost finished and would be available very soon for people to read. After that I will be focusing on the third book in the series which would be the story of Shiva, roaming in modern world, searching for his friends. There is another book ‘And Life Said…’ which is a compilation of 130 positive and spiritual saying from me and brush work of bamboo art by my better half, Simmi Gulhati.”
Shailendra however is very disappointed with current scenario for literature fraternity in our state. “For a writer in J&K, there is a lot to discourage and very little to encourage. I am not saying that people here are not fond of reading, but for a writer to get his work published, is nothing short of a nightmare. My own work was affected by this and I am sure many budding writers must have suffered from the same problem. The two books of mine that were published were through self-publication and I could not find distributors for them. Now I release my books as e-books but I strongly believe that civil society or some part of the government must look seriously into this issue and take necessary steps to safeguard the interests of writers. We should come out together and try to eradicate the vacuum for art and culture in our state. We must try to let the publishers across the country know of the talent we have here by bringing something like Jaipur Lit Fest in our state too and I am ready to help with that, in whatever way I can.”
For large, it has been a common notion that spirituality leads to leaving behind the family and going far away in quest of peace. Shailendra however disagrees, “There is this misnomer that practicing spirituality would make people go to forests or Himalayas. This is not at all true. Spirituality is an essential part of our life that can really help in making this already beautiful life even more beautiful.” And what better example to validate his words than himself. Shailendra, the spiritual writer, lives a happy life with his family, looks after the big business on week days and goes out with his friends on weekends too. “Stress is always the pull between the real world and the spiritual world and spirituality is my supernatural power in dealing with it. It doubles my happiness and halves my problems”, he adds.
A businessman, a family man, a noted writer and an adventure junkie, what is the secret of Shailendra’s success at all these fronts? Shailendra credits it all to his family. “My journey would have ended long ago if not for my family. When I was young, my father supported my passion. And then my wife continued doing that. My daughters are also as supportive as their mother. Having an excellent team of workers at workplace also helps in a great way, as they make sure I always get time for my writing. I strongly believe that without all of them, I could not have become what I am today.”