HomeFeatureA Journey of Self-Discovery and Liberation: Kartikeya Ladha's Reflections on Six Years...

A Journey of Self-Discovery and Liberation: Kartikeya Ladha’s Reflections on Six Years of Writing, Embracing the Unheard, and Personal Evolution

The celebrated youth icon reflects on personal growth, living an authentic life and the impact of his first book 'Dream Beyond Shadows' in this exclusive interview.

In the approaching celebration of the 6th anniversary of his first book, “Dream Beyond Shadows,” and the 1st anniversary of his most recent work, “UNHERD: A Tale of Love, Wisdom, and Strength,” coinciding with his 30th birthday, youth icon and celebrated author Kartikeya reflects on the transformative milestones and personal growth woven into his literary journey. What began as an unforeseen expedition with “Dream Beyond Shadows” has evolved into a profound exploration of self-discovery, resonating with readers globally. In this feature article interview, Kartikeya shares insights into the evolution of his craft, the intersection of autobiography, travelogue, and philosophy in his works, and his vision for a liberated world that challenges societal norms. As he delves into his ongoing fiction project, Kartikeya articulates how literature can serve as a guide for both himself and readers on the quest for authenticity and self-realization.

  1. As you approach the celebration of the 6th anniversary of your first book Dream Beyond Shadows in December, and the 1st anniversary of your most recent book UNHERD : A Tale of Love, Wisdom and Strength coinciding with your 30th birthday, can you reflect on the significant milestones and personal growth you’ve experienced during this journey?

    Kartikeya: Embarking on this unforeseen and extensive journey, when I initiated Dream Beyond Shadows six years ago, I never anticipated the profound impact it would have on readers in India and around the globe. Witnessing the awakening among the younger generation, observing their quest for answers to life’s fundamental “whys,” has been a humbling experience. Dream Beyond Shadows has become a catalyst for individuals on their introspective journeys, inspiring them to explore both within and beyond themselves in search of life’s essential truths. UNHERD, in a similar vein, advocates for breaking free from the confines of a limiting ‘herd mindset.’ Both books share a common mission: to empower readers to discover their unique paths and navigate their personal journeys with authenticity and resilience.

Over the course of this transformative expedition, I’ve encountered numerous significant milestones that have shaped my understanding and broadened my perspective. Each milestone, whether marked by a publication, a connection with readers, or a moment of self-discovery, has been a stepping stone in my evolution.

In terms of personal growth, this journey has been a continuous process of self-discovery and refinement. I’ve learned to embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and growth, honing my skills as a writer and deepening my understanding of the human experience. The feedback and interactions with readers have been particularly enlightening, serving as a mirror that reflects the impact of my words and ideas on others.

  1. Looking forward, what are your aspirations and goals for the coming years, both personally and professionally, as you continue to evolve as an author and individual?

    Kartikeya: My aspirations are straightforward yet profound. On a professional level, my primary objective is to delve further into my craft as a writer, consistently sharing my creations with authenticity and truthfulness. This entails a commitment to continuous improvement and an unwavering dedication to the genuine expression of ideas.

On a personal level, my goals are deeply introspective. I aim to embark on an ongoing journey of self-discovery, delving into the realms of self-realization and understanding who I am at my core. The crux lies in aligning this profound self-awareness with both my personal and professional interests. Living an authentic life that resonates with my true self is paramount, with a focus on cultivating inner peace.

To achieve these personal goals, I emphasize the virtues of groundedness, humility, and a thorough understanding of my own identity. I am committed to sharing only those experiences that I have truly lived, ensuring that my journey, both personally and professionally, remains authentic and resonates with genuine sincerity.

I am currently immersed in the creation of a new book, a fiction project that I initiated four months ago. This literary endeavor is not merely a narrative; it’s a venture into a profound philosophy that delves into the inherent darkness of life. My goal is to intricately integrate this darkness with the essence of life, exploring the depths beyond superficial layers and immersing myself in the hidden realms of the underground and unconscious.

Through the vivid portrayal of characters, I aim to navigate and articulate the intricate aspects of life, exposing the layers that often remain unnoticed. This storytelling journey goes beyond the surface, aiming to unravel the complexities and nuances that shape the human experience. It’s an exploration of the profound, a narrative that invites readers to contemplate the depths of existence, guided by characters who serve as conduits into the hidden recesses of our collective consciousness.

  1. Is your mission as a writer centred around guiding individuals to embark on a journey of self-discovery?

    Kartikeya: I don’t perceive myself as a traditional guide or teacher. My journey revolves around seeking internal peace, and whatever unfolds on that path becomes the essence of my creative expression. I share my craft without assuming a role of a guide; rather, it’s an authentic manifestation of my exploration.

While my primary intention is personal peace, I’ve come to realize that my books inadvertently serve as guides for others, as I’ve been told. Interestingly, I also view them as guides for myself. These written expressions are more than just words; they are reflections stemming from my study of life. Periodically, I revisit my own books, not just to reminisce but to refocus and remind myself of the profound insights I’ve gained. They are, in essence, tools for both my ongoing self-discovery and for others venturing into the realms of their own introspection.

4. Your books seamlessly blend autobiography, travelogue, and philosophy. How do these diverse genres contribute to the message you want to convey, and what role does literature play in fostering self-realisation?

Kartikeya: The genesis of my first two books, “Dream Beyond Shadows” (2018) and “Life Unknown” (2021), is deeply intertwined with my experiences while traveling. These narratives organically evolved into travelogues infused with autobiographical elements and philosophical reflections. The essence of these works lies in capturing the realizations of life as they unfolded within the stories. Central to their themes is the exploration of self-realization and the ensuing understandings, emphasizing their practical implementation in daily life to foster a balanced and wholesome existence.

In my view, literature plays a pivotal role in catalyzing self-realization. Throughout history, great minds have penned insights that transcend generations, shaping cultures and inspiring individuals. Stories, inherent to human nature, serve as a powerful medium through which we connect with shared experiences. We are, fundamentally, born storytellers. When a writer authentically reflects their own life in their stories, a profound connection is established, allowing readers to relate and derive lessons from the shared human experience. This interconnectedness, rooted in our biology, highlights the universal aspects of our existence. Therefore, when a writer crafts a work with honesty and authenticity, it resonates with readers, offering a platform for shared understanding and growth.

  1. In your vision for a liberated world, you mention breaking free from conventional expectations and societal norms. How can literature and creative expression contribute to this liberation, especially among the youth?
    I believe that as humans, our innate disposition is inherently unconventional. What society labels as convention seems to be a construct designed to organize individuals under the banners of religion, politics, or ideologies, imposing limitations and restrictions. Conventionality, as defined by societal norms, appears to be a departure from our natural state. In essence, our true nature is one of youthfulness, wildness, and freedom—attributes inherent to our souls.

The systems in which we find ourselves often stand in stark contrast to this natural state. Many people are not living in alignment with their inherent, authentic selves, creating a context where anything genuinely natural becomes labeled as ‘unconventional.’ The prevalent tendency to conform and follow the crowd is a choice, and individuals can opt to break free from this pattern once they recognize it.

Here, literature plays a crucial role in facilitating this journey towards embracing unconventionality. Honest and authentic storytelling serves as a mirror, reflecting the contrast between societal expectations and our genuine, untamed essence. Through literature, individuals can find narratives that resonate with their true nature, inspiring them to question established norms and encouraging the pursuit of a more authentic life. Stories have the power to ignite the spark of self-awareness, providing the courage and insight needed to break away from conformity and live in alignment with our natural, unconventional selves.

6. Your vision emphasises a balanced lifestyle that combines materialistic and spiritual elements. How do you personally strike this balance, and what advice do you have for individuals looking to incorporate both aspects into their lives?

Kartikeya: In our relentless pursuit of balance in this world, we find ourselves increasingly immersed in materialism, particularly in India, where it has taken center stage in our lives. Our identities have become intricately linked to external accomplishments and what we do. It’s crucial for us to recognize that this external identity is akin to a role or character we play in the larger narrative of our lives.

The realization that our inner world holds greater significance opens the door to living a more authentic life. When we operate from this internal space, devoid of pretense or distraction, we can seamlessly integrate it with the materialistic aspects of our existence—our professions, relationships, family dynamics, and overall life conduct. Currently, the external often dictates our internal emotional landscape, but a transformative shift is needed.

By acknowledging the primacy of our inner selves, we can recalibrate our approach to life. Rather than letting external circumstances dictate our internal states, we can foster authenticity by aligning our actions with our genuine selves. This shift not only enhances our overall well-being but also allows for a harmonious integration of materialistic pursuits with a more profound understanding of who we are at our core.

  1. How can individuals cultivate a mindset of curiosity, and why do you believe questioning societal norms is crucial for personal growth?

    Kartikeya: Inherent in our nature is a curious mindset from the moment we are born. The crucial aspect is resisting the inclination to conform to societal mindsets and blindly follow established norms. The journey involves discovering the truth for ourselves, independent of imposed ideologies. Although children are naturally imbued with curiosity, societal conditioning often suppresses this innate quality by imposing external influences.

Parents play a pivotal role in preserving the curiosity of their children by allowing them the freedom to explore and be themselves. Moreover, it’s equally important for adults to retain a sense of childlike curiosity. This innate curiosity has been the driving force behind our evolution, growth, and development. It is essential to break free from the confines of the rat race and linear thinking, recognizing the limitations they impose on our potential for exploration and discovery. Embracing our natural curiosity not only fosters personal growth but also contributes to a more expansive and open-minded approach to life.

  1. What are the common themes in each of your books and what important messages do they convey?

    Kartikeya: The recurring themes across all my books encapsulate a profound narrative of breaking free from self-imposed limitations and fears. Central to these narratives is the pivotal choice to embrace love over fear and opt for expansion rather than contraction. A significant focus lies on transforming one’s internal chemistry and mechanisms, breaking free from the clutches of trauma, and fostering a deep embrace of vulnerability, weakness, and failures.

Furthermore, the exploration of sexuality is a crucial element woven into these themes, delving into aspects often considered taboo or discouraged in societal narratives, particularly in the context of India.

Essentially, my works challenge conventional norms and encourage readers to engage in actions typically discouraged in Indian society. The narratives serve as a call to action, urging individuals to redefine their boundaries, confront their fears, and choose a path of love, expansion, and self-acceptance, even in the face of societal norms that may dictate otherwise. My books encourage readers to shift their perspective on life, urging them to view it not as a binary of success or failure, but as an ongoing journey where the interpretation and meaning are shaped by our choices. Life, in essence, is happening, and my writings emphasize the empowering notion that we have the agency to decide what significance and value to attribute to our experiences.

  1. Your target audience comprises young, educated, middle-class Indians. What feedback from readers have stood out to you?

    Kartikeya: Many of my readers have expressed how my writings serve as a source of inspiration, motivating them to persevere through their personal journeys. They often share that my words alleviate their sense of solitude, serving as a poignant reminder that they are not navigating this path alone. Although the awakening journey poses its own set of challenges, my writing reassures them that someone else out there comprehends their emotions intimately.

    10. How do you envision your role as a disruptor, and what impact do you hope to have on the literary landscape?

    Kartikeya: While I may not have initially realized the disruptive nature of the topics explored in my books, I am now cognizant of the profound impact they have had on many young Indians. These themes resonate deeply with their feelings and aspirations, providing a voice to the transformative journey they yearn to undertake. I’ve unintentionally become a disruptor, as my words have become a source of inspiration for individuals navigating similar experiences.

What I have verbalized in my works mirrors the challenges and breakthroughs that people undergo, serving as a catalyst for them to forge their own paths and make pivotal life choices. The disruptive nature, in my opinion, stems from the organic sharing of my journey. I did not set out to be a disruptor; it unfolded naturally as I chose to authentically share my experiences and the way I’ve chosen to live my life. The ripple effect is a testament to the resonance of these narratives.

Importantly, I recognize that true change is a personal choice, and I am not imposing my way of life on others. People, in general, seek authenticity and autonomy in crafting their own realities based on the calling of their souls, and my intention is to provide them with narratives that empower and inspire rather than coerce.

  1. Being a youth icon who is raw, unfiltered and unapologetically so, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to embrace authenticity in their storytelling?

Kartikeya: At the forefront of everything is honesty — a commitment to being truthful with oneself, in writing, and in understanding one’s intentions. Achieving inner peace, not only with oneself but also with loved ones, is paramount. The foundational step involves continuous self-work, delving into the core of your being before extending a helping hand to others.

The internal landscape, your emotions, and the alignment with your soul’s purpose hold significant importance. Establishing a genuine agreement with oneself requires introspection into the fundamental questions: Why are you here as a soul? What is your purpose? Returning to these foundational aspects and persistently engaging in self-refinement form the bedrock of personal and spiritual growth.

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