Robert Pirsig & The Art Of Mental Maintenance


Reading a book that changed your life is an experience to be cherished, because it happens all too rarely. These life changing books also tend to disappear from your life as you get older, so if you are in college or at work and happen to be reading this, drop the column, and pick up a book. I’m serious!

But, if like me, you happen to be on the wrong side of entrance examinations, I’d like to spend today’s column talking to you about books that changed your life. What that particular book happened to be in your case might well be different from mine, but that isn’t the point.

Cast your mind back to the time you were in the process of reading that book, and felt yourself quiver with excitement while you read it.

This, you no doubt thought to yourself, was what you had been waiting for your whole life. It was as if the author had opened up new vistas for you to consider, new worlds for you to revel in, and a way of thinking which seemed so very inevitable in retrospect. It was all you could think about for the next few weeks, all you could talk about with everybody you met, and if only the syllabus of all the colleges in the world were up to you, why, this book would be the only one that would ever be taught.

What I wouldn’t give to go back and experience being head over heels in love with a book all over again. Getting older, I have realised, is a synonym for being more cynical. And while that is a useful trick to have when it comes to dealing with the news at nine, it does mean that you read more with your mind than your heart.


Image Courtesy : Alchetron

But in my case, a book that I read with all my heart and soul was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. It was, for all appearances, a book about a bike ride across the country by father and son, but it ended up being about so much more. In case you haven’t already, please do read the book, no matter what age you are.



Your mileage may vary with age, but you will derive some amount of pleasure from it – that I can guarantee.

There are two reasons I wanted to write this column today. One because thinking about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance made me think about falling in love with a book one is reading, and how rare an event this is in my life these days. Something I’ll always be grateful to Robert Pirsig for – and as an aside, it might not be the worst idea in the world to reflect back on a book that had a similar impact upon you. I found the experience intensely enjoyable.

The second reason is that Robert Pirsig passed away a couple of days ago. He was eighty-eight years old, and had been battling illness for a while. The news of his passing deeply saddened me, but also reminded me of the book that I have consistently regarded as being my all time favorite.

I’ll be paying tribute to Pirsig this weekend by re-reading the book, and if I may be allowed to make a suggestion – may I? – thank you! – perhaps you might care to spend your weekend re-reading your favorite book of all time.

I think it is a terrific idea, I really do.

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni