Born and brought up in Mumbai, Gautam faced one challenge after another fairly early in life. He remarks, “As a result I grew up before my time.” Having to cope with the loss of his father at the young age of 14 gave rise to questions related with death, insecurity and survival, which would affect most children faced with a similar loss.
Gautam’s fondest memories are of the times spent with his parents on weekend trips to the shrine of Sai Baba at Shirdi, and on annual holidays when the family went to Kashmir. His father had built a prospering advertising business, which after his father’s demise, had continued to grow and progress under the watchful eye of his mother. Gautam started attending office while he was still in college and, three years later, took over the reins of the business.
Running the business and dealing with a staff of thirty who were all much older than him, taught him about building relationships with people – whether they were CEOs of multi-national corporations, suppliers, or his colleagues at work. Gradually, he was able to bring the company out of the red – bad debts that had been incurred over the years – and back into the black.
At the turn of the millennium, Gautam’s inherent but latent spiritual inclination surfaced through a series of synchronistic events. Following his mother’s example, he started attending a course in Brahma Vidya (Knowledge of Brahman) based on a system of ancient Tibetan breathing exercises. This course was conducted by his mother’s guru, Justice Dudhat of the High Court of Mumbai.
Around this time, Gautam diversified into publishing by setting up Yogi Impressions, to publish his mother Santosh’s book on her spiritual awakening ( www.santoshsachdeva.com ). Although there was no desire or ambition to publish any other book besides this one, destiny had charted a new course for him. He recalls an incident when a journalist from one of India’s leading newspapers sought a telephonic interview, since they were doing a feature on ‘spiritual business’ and wished to cover Yogi Impressions. When the interviewer asked a question about Gautam’s future plans for the venture, he replied, “God only knows!” When asked to be serious about it, he replied, “I am serious… I have no business plan, only God would know.” The interviewer promptly hung up.
As a single parent, Santosh now played the role of both mother and father during Gautam’s as well as his sisters’ growing up years. This role took on another dimension after her spiritual awakening, when aspirants started visiting her for guidance on the path of Kundalini and meditation. By now, he was closely working with her on other books that were to follow as well as witnessing, at close quarters, her interactions with aspirants. He imbibed a lot by just being in her presence. He is often asked what it is like to live under the same roof with a personality such as his mother. His sister Shibani sums it up by saying, “Never once did our mother utter the word ‘No’ to us.”
Around this time, Gautam met Eckhart Tolle, the best-selling spiritual author of The Power of Now in Hong Kong, while holidaying with his sister Nikki who worked there at the time. He had several interactions with this spiritual teacher over the next few years, courtesy Nikki and her friends’ proximity to Eckhart, which led to his publishing company bringing out the Indian edition of The Power of Now. Eckhart had said that publishing would be the start of ‘an adventure’ for Gautam, and so it turned out to be. He remembers the day when he told Eckhart that his interest in the advertising profession seemed to be waning, at which Eckhart uttered, “Thank God!”
It was at Nikki’s urging that he met the Advaita sage, Ramesh Balsekar. Some of her friends were flying down from a distant country just to meet this modern sage who lived a mere 20-minute drive away from Gautam’s home. Having no conscious interest in the subject, he tagged along one Sunday morning to Ramesh’s residence in Mumbai. On his next visit when Ramesh saw him, he asked Gautam: “Isn’t this the second consecutive Sunday you have come? Be careful young man… this will become your Sunday church!” Little then did he know that he would keep visiting Ramesh over the next nine years to attend his satsangs.
Ramesh’s teaching was a validation of Gautam’s life experiences. It became evident that Ramesh was more than a friend, philosopher, father-figure and mentor – he was the Guru he had been unconsciously seeking. Sitting with Ramesh, Gautam says he got answers ‘to questions he never asked’. This was reflected in Ramesh’s words (from the Foreword to Gautam’s second book The Buddha’s Sword, based on Ramesh’s teaching): “During the early years when Gautam visited me every Sunday morning, I noticed the keen interest he showed in the subject and I soon came to the conclusion that ‘awakening’ had taken place, and that he was on his way to ‘deliverance’ – awakening functioning in daily living.”
During these years, Gautam worked closely with Ramesh assisting him with the editing and publishing of some of his books. When asked about his fondest memory of Ramesh, Gautam mentions his 30th birthday when he decided to just stay home with his family and not really celebrate. The doorbell rang and in walked Ramesh – an event orchestrated by one of his closest friends as ‘a birthday surprise’.
In later years, Ramesh encouraged Gautam to write especially after reading an article Gautam had written for India’s leading spiritual magazine on the occasion of Ramesh’s 90th birthday in 2007. It was this gentle nudge that eventually led to Gautam writing his first book based on Ramesh’s teaching – Pointers from Ramesh Balsekar. The title took direct inspiration from Ramesh’s own first book Pointers from Nisargadatta Maharaj, based on his Guru Nisargadatta Maharaj’s teachings.
When Gautam apologised to Ramesh for the brevity of his book (he had condensed the essence of the teaching into just a few pages), Ramesh quipped, “Well, that’s the way the teaching went in – in a clear and concise manner – so that’s the way it came out!” And then Ramesh couldn’t resist adding in jest, “But we won’t be able to charge much for this book!”
Since then, Gautam has authored three more books. He is quite perplexed himself at this ‘happening’ as he had no intention of becoming a writer. “At least one doesn’t have to look hard for a publisher,” he adds with a smile. His books have been translated into Russian, German, Hindi and Marathi.
Gautam has an active work life that includes overseeing the publishing business. Yet, as he says, given his early start he has clocked in a fair number of years having daily darshan of his office desk, and would be happy to semi-retire. He lives and works in South Mumbai, visits Goa and Kashmir over long weekend breaks, in addition to his annual pilgrimage to the South Indian town of Tiruvannamalai, home to Sri Ramana Maharshi’s ashram and Arunachala, the holy mountain.
While he loves Mumbai – a city where extreme polarities coexist, he says he loves these frequent getaways because, “Sometimes you have to go away just in order to come back.”
Depending on Gautam’s schedule, meetings take place on some Sunday mornings at his residence in South Mumbai. If you wish to be informed of these meetings, please join the mailing list.