1989 it was, and I was a petite 12 year old, and I along with my classmates, a group of 45 students, in our Seventh Grade. We were part of the Bharathamatha Family, a Christian Missionary Convent, when this young and vivacious teacher took charge of our English Class. Her Name was Sushma Menon and when she entered, the whole of 40 boys were awed by her charm. Little did we know that she was married and not ‘just out of college’ as we had thought when we first saw her.
Anyhow, the first class it has been, and as usual she started with introductions, first with herself and then asking us each one to introduce ourselves and then tell her as also the rest of us about our reading habits. So we were to tell our names, and the book that we were currently reading. So we started one by one. Ironically, we were not avid readers then, and even if some of us (including me!) read anything, we just about graduated to the Sidney Sheldons and Harrold Robbins types.
The introduction started, and when the turn came to the brightest boy of the class (I would name him as Manish), he jumped up from his desk to tell ma’am his name as also the book he was reading with much pride for himself. “Ma’am, I am Manish, and these days I am reading ‘Enid Blyton’.
Ma’am retored back…“Enid Blyton?, My five year old son reads it.” Having hurt the pride of the brightest boy in our class, we look at Sushma Ma’am, only to see her smiling wryly at our admissions of our reading habits. She continued. “Children, I would give you a book, and in a month, you need to finish it and give me a review of the same.”
And for this assignment, she divided the class of 45 into ten groups and I don’t know from where, she managed 10 pirated copies of ‘Fountainhead’ and gave a book each to each group. Thus began our sojourn of books and I must say, that one assignment given by that winsome teacher has indeed changed my (or rather, the entire classes’) reading habit.
Now, coming to this book, I think, it is one of the of greatest books I have ever read. When I first saw it, seeing the size, I said, ‘Ummmm…. I dont think’. The book was almost 750 pages on paperback, and the print was pretty small. But somehow I started. Or rather, I had to start for the Review assignment that my ma’am had given me. I soon found the idea of objectivism was just what the doctor ordered for me. Thus began a journey with Ayn Rand and her brand of philosophy of objectivism.
Fountainhead is a romantic and philosophical novel which centres around an uncompromising young architect named Howard Roark and his struggle against what Rand described as “second-handers”— those who attempt to live through others, placing others above self. Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. Roark is Ayn Rand’s embodiment of the human spirit, and his struggle represents the triumph of individualism over collectivism. In the climax of the story, Roark seems doomed, but he rouses the courtroom with a speech about the value of ego and the need to remain true to oneself. Wynand, a Newspaper Mogul, one of the main characters of the novel, finally grasped the nature of the “power” he thought Roark held, asks Roark to design one last building, a skyscraper that will testify to the supremacy of man: “Build it as a monument to that spirit which is yours…and could have been mine.”. Indeed the Monument is built.
More of her books followed and it was only then I realized that Ayn Rand has written a better book than this one (Atlas Shrugged, her Magnum Opus), though it was Fountainhead which made her popular.
Ayn Rand, American-Russian Writer, was once referred by someone as the ‘Most Courageous Man in America’. Yes, indeed it was a compliment which pleased the author, for she was a WOMAN and not a man. Ayn Rand managed to create a whole group of followers with her books, her philosophy and her idea of objectivism.
Fountainhead indeed has been a part of my bookshelf since that time, almost 21 years now, and I have always felt the urge to read and re-read it whenever I find time, or rather, whenever I think I need to refuel myself with the philosophy Ayn Rand propounded. It’s just very difficult to let that book go from my hands to others, as it has indeed become a very vital part of my life. I went on to recommend this book and continue doing so to my friends, colleagues and other acquaintances, but I always say, buy that book yourself, and don’t borrow it, for it is worth it.
As a last word, the philosophy that one gets from this book is amazing. I think, one should read this book at every stage of one’s life, and the philosophy that one gets from this book, each time is different.
The author is someone who gets his bread and butter from computers. And frequently he Blogs too at http://shaanmenon.blogspot.com, or rather, we sould say, Cogito, Ergo Sum. He blogs, therefore he exists. He mostly blogs about the movies that fascinate him, Books that help him keep alive and also those little musings, including what he thinks to be relevant political issues.
Image Source: [http://online.wsj.com/media/Rand_Ayn_art_400_20080505104949.jpg]