We interviewed yet another interesting individual. Just before the whole of India was put under total lockdown, Avdhoot Sherkar started a YouTube channel ‘Read Travel Become’. In just two years since then, he has amassed close to 45,000 subscribers. All his videos put together have garnered over 2 million+ views.
Moreover, his YouTube channel is very different. He is one of the rarest Indian YouTubers who put out content related to books and travel. This is what makes him special.
Like everyone else, he had a normal childhood, meaning he read only those books that would get him the marks in exams! His interest in reading took off when he was probably 19 or 20. He read one book which spurred his interest in reading and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this changed (and will change) his life. Fortunately for him, he was always encouraged by his parents to try different things but never forced. Want to know how much of an avid reader he is now? See this video:
Additionally, he is on a mission to change the attitude towards reading we Indians have. He has even distributed books to total strangers on the streets of Mumbai and Bangalore.
The interview focuses on Avdhoot’s childhood, whether he had the pressure of becoming a doctor (considering his parents are doctors), his views on book summaries, a few things no one knows about him, role models and many other things. The interview below is slightly long but trust me it is full of wisdom and amazing insights.
Avdhoot Sherkar a.k.a. Read Travel Become Interview
Q1. Most of your audience is made up of teenagers or individuals who are a few years into their corporate journey. The latter segment either has kids or will have kids in the future and may be planning toward developing them into avid readers. Hence, my very first question is about your childhood. If you look back and reflect, what incidents or occurrences do you think made you the avid reader that you are right now?
For the longest time, I wasn’t exposed to reading. During my childhood too, I was never exposed to the world of reading. The only reading that I knew of was the one that got me marks. I started reading in the first year of my engineering. I was a sporadic reader, never an avid reader. And I read books just because people around me were reading them – books by Dan Brown and Chetan Bhagat.
I actually read one book during my engineering days that really spurred my interest in reading other books.
In fact, in my childhood, I was into dancing. Doesn’t look like it but I have danced a lot and it is very close to my heart. Even in college, I was a part of a hip-hop crew and did some performances at a national level. So, dancing has always been a core part of my life, reading came much much later.
Q2 – Didn’t your parents ever force you to read books or stories?
No, never. In fact, this is what I like and keep telling my audience. Things should come naturally to you. When you yourself feel like doing it, it becomes very easy. If someone tells me to read a certain number of books in a certain number of days, it feels like a task. We have so many other things to do – our academics, other responsibilities, etc. On top of that, if you add this, it never works out.
When you start liking things, it becomes easy. That’s what works for me and I am fortunate enough in that sense.
Q3. The key then is to take it easy and not force things upon your kids?
Yes, you should be open to things. I like this thing about my parents is that they have kept me open to many things. I have done dancing, elocution, and quizzes. I used to play tennis at the national level. I play the guitar. The more open you are, the more chances that you will stumble upon the right thing.
Q4. Your parents are doctors. In most of such families that I have seen, the kids end up becoming doctors too. Can you walk us through how the situation was with you and why you did not take up medicine?
Many reasons actually but I didn’t want to study for a longer time. My parents are hard-core practitioners and they have masters and all. But they told me that in today’s times if you want to be a top doctor, you have to go till the end and not just stop at a speciality but go for super-speciality. Only then does it make sense to be a top doctor these days.
And back then I had heard that engineering can be a launchpad and you can take any direction you want after engineering. This is what resonated with me. Had I done medicine, I would have had to do that thing my whole life. My UG (under-graduation) was in mechanical engineering, and my master’s right now is in engineering management (from US). I worked in an IT consultancy firm earlier.
Q5. When did you get this clarity? How old were you then?
It was clear pretty early actually, that I didn’t want to do medicine. I wasn’t sure that I would do engineering but not doing medicine was clear when I was in the 8th or 9th standard. I would have done things differently if I go back in time. At that point in time, I thought medicine and engineering are the only two options but back then too there were so many options that I wasn’t aware of.
Q6. You clearly have an interest in engineering which is visible from the fact that you are pursuing your masters in it. On the other hand, you have your YouTube channel. If you were asked to choose just one of these two, which one would you choose and why?
I have an answer for this but it may sound diplomatic. There is a book called Originals by Adam Grant which really re-wired my brain. He talks about leaving all other things and pursuing your passion. I will be honest that YouTube is my passion, engineering management is not. The writer writes that in order to leave everything and pursue your passion, you need to have a substantial backup. Engineering is not my backup as such but the content creation game is giving me the energy to pursue engineering management. It is like yin-yang. I am really interested in engineering management because I am getting that creative energy from my creative instincts.
If I was doing just engineering, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much. Additionally, if I were doing only YouTube, I would have always had the thought that this is my only source of sustenance and hence the quality of content would not have been up to the mark. Right now, I feel free because my life is not dependent on it. It is like a perfect balance. The writer sights numerous examples where people have always had one backup. Backup sounds negative but it is what it is. And yes, there may arrive a stage when I feel I can sustain myself easily through my YouTube channel and that is when I would choose YouTube.
Q7. There are book summaries available in the form of podcasts and blog articles. And they are effective when you have some time at your disposal but don’t want to listen to songs. I know that spending hours and hours reading books actually makes sense and gives us a better perspective as compared to book summaries. What is your take though, would you completely rule out book summaries?
Yes, I would rule out book summaries. When you are reading a book, you are exercising your brain. You are learning. Earlier, my primary objective in reading was to have fun. However, right now the objective is to learn to think, revamp what I have learned, and re-learn. This happens only when you read books. When you read book summaries, you may learn a few things but it may change anything in you. Book summaries make you feel good for a small amount of time, make you feel that you have learnt a few things, feel good about your life and feel motivated. But it will soon die down. It was there with you for a very short duration and hence all things will die down. Try reading a book and you will be in that zone and it will make you do certain things. For me, reading is useless if you don’t do anything.
But yes, you can refer to book summaries to brush up. And knowing something is better than not knowing anything. But book summaries can never act as replacements for actual full-length books.
Q8. Tell us three things no one knows about you.
I am a sneaker-head. I love shoes a lot because I read Shoe Dog.
I have been a dancer all my life. There is an interesting incident I want to share. I went to watch ‘Kaho Na Pyaar Hai’ movie with my parents. When the song ‘Ek pal ka jeena’ started, I was not there on my seat and my parents were confused. They started panicking. When they started searching, they saw me right in front of the screen dancing to the song. I was very much enthralled by Hrithik Roshan’s moves. And the whole crowd was cheering for me. This is a fond memory that my parents keep telling me about.
I am a very lazy person. It is very hard for me to get up early in the morning. I am most productive at night.
Q9. Who are your role models and what have you learnt from them?
Lots of role models actually. Feels like choosing your best parent.
The first one is Naval Ravikant. Really like his ideas, very contemporary. There are certain ideas he has given which are always imprinted in my mind. First is, the law of exponential returns. He says that only when you do a lot of things, do you have a chance of stumbling upon the right things. This thing is there in my subconscious mind. If I don’t talk to many people, I will never meet that one right person who will guide me on what is suitable for me. Secondly, he speaks in Joe Rogan’s podcast ‘Specialization is for Insects’ about how in today’s world you need to be good at multiple things so that it makes individually you. You become irreplaceable.
Next is Christopher Nodal. I love that man’s vision. He is very unique. He has not had a science degree nor did he have any directorial background. But when you combine these things, you get the greatest scientific filmmaker of our times. He always inspires me to think way out of the box.
Q10. If the Indian Government creates a Ministry of Books and Reading and you are made its chief, what are the things you would do?
First thing, like we have gyms in India where people flaunt their physique and take selfies, I would create mental gyms where you can flaunt your mind. Libraries sound boring and may not attract attention. So I would have mental gyms set up all over India with lots of books, podcasts, and seminars that should be made ‘cool’.
Secondly, I think the Indian education system needs some literature as well, including fiction books. Fiction has the power of expanding your imagination beyond belief.
Q11. How is the reading culture in the US, as compared to the cities of India?
People read a lot here, they want to know about the latest book in the market. Even in the smallest of the US towns, there are lots of libraries and bookstores, where books are free. The books are being updated and preserved. There is a concept of a Book Box in some of the cities where you can deposit any of your books and in return take any book. People genuinely follow this practice. Reading here is not treated like academics but as leisure.
India is also catching up to this pace and moving in this direction.
Q12. If you had Rs. 10 crore in your personal bank balance, what would you do with it?
I would go on a world tour for sure and buy books.
Q13. You love travelling. Which are the top 5 countries you definitely-definitely want to visit?
I want to go to the UK, and entire Europe actually. I have read some great history about these places. I want to visit many of the US states like Texas and Michigan to explore the authentic American culture. Ireland and Cambodia are on my list too. Lastly, Antarctica is on my list.
Q14. Make one promise – what would you do for your subscribers once you reach the 100K and 1M mark on YouTube?
Giveaway of 100 books on the 100K mark. On the 1M mark, I would want to organize a meetup where we meet and greet and there are authors there, good discussions, etc.
Q15. Any social media influencers or personalities you look up to?
I really like Casey Neistat. He is full of life. He just wears his heart out on a sleeve. One of my favourite videos of his is ‘Do what you can’t’. Mindblowing video. MKBHD, Captain Sinbad, and Ali Abdaal are my favourites too.
That’s it for now. You can reach out to Avdhoot on Instagram too where he is quite active. Here is the link to his YouTube channel again. Do subscribe if you wish to see more interesting updates on reading and travelling both!
Let us know who you want us to cover next in this interview series. Write to us at [email protected]