This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Radhika Jhaveri. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How Ayn Rand’s Books Ruined 6 Years Of My Life

More from Radhika Jhaveri

By Radhika Jhaveri:

I was 19 when I was introduced to the writings of Ayn Rand. It was a friend of a friend who was a great fan, and he recommended her to me. ‘The Fountainhead’ was the first book that I read and was immediately captivated by the characters that she had drawn up. I was mesmerised by Roark, Dominique and Wynand. They seemed to be perfect, so confident about themselves and so sure of everything they believed.

Having read and re-read ‘The Fountainhead’ many times, I moved on to Rand’s seminal work, ‘Atlas Shrugged’. If the characters in ‘The Fountainhead’ were mesmerising, they were nothing compared to the characters that she had portrayed in ‘Atlas Shrugged’. Dagny Taggart and her friends, particularly John Galt and Francisco d’Anconia, now filled my consciousness with, if it were possible, even a greater wonder. The characters in her books were everything that humans were not. To my twenty-year-old self, they seemed like superheroes with zero flaws, no dark personalities, no conflicted emotions and no regrets.

Unconsciously, I started trying to live by Rand’s philosophy of objectivism. There are no grays, she had proclaimed – everything is either black or white. Feminism, environmentalism, communism are shoddy ideas and must be sacrificed at the altar of capitalism for capitalism was the unknown ideal and all the misery in this world was a result of failing to understand this concept.

In Rand’s world, every idea, every belief, every thought and every concept could be neatly stacked into the two categories of good and bad. Rich was good and poor was bad, capitalism was good, and socialism was bad, man worship was good, and feminism was bad. Atheism was good, and belief in God was bad. Selfishness was good, and altruism was bad. The West was good, and the East was bad. Israel was right, and the Palestinians were wrong.

Having been an atheist myself, I automatically agreed with everything that she said about religion, belief in god and atheism. However, unlike Rand, I was a feminist (still am), an environmentalist (still am) and an animal lover. Objectivism made no room for any of these ideas and I struggled with it for the entirety of my time as a Randian.

By the time I graduated, I had developed an enormous sense of entitlement. I suppose it had always been there, but Rand’s ideas magnified it. I had started believing that the fact that I did not secure an admission in Veterinary Science (my lifelong dream at that time) was due to the reservation policy. I even participated in the 2008 anti-reservation protests for I blamed the failure of my dreams on those who had gotten in via reservation. But in my defence, everything in our life leads us to believe that merit (whatever that is supposed to mean) deserves rewards. Right from our school days, the idea that if you perform and get good grades, you are deserving of good things in life, is re-enforced. There are no real life Dumbledores who reward you for showing human qualities such as compassion, bravery and courage. In fact, you are rewarded for competing, for being cut throat and for wanting to get ahead.

After graduating (Bachelors in Commerce – and I have to mention this – the most useless field of study if there ever was one), I started working. My experience with the big corporate was not something that I had expected. Being a Randian, I had expected to enjoy my work and my time at the office. I did not. In Rand’s books, her characters seemed to enjoy the emotionless working of the corporate. For a long time, I believed that I could be just as emotionless when it came to my work and operated like a machine just like Rand had advocated. But I couldn’t. I hated every minute of my time there. I found the office environment to be cold, rude, cut throat and extremely un-friendly. I was a champion of capitalism, and yet I argued for labour rights – minimum wage, banning of contract labour, eight hour work day, paternity and maternity leaves and so on. And so set in the cognitive dissonance with which I lived for a span of six years, I could not make sense of what I was experiencing. I believed in Objectivism and yet I found myself craving exactly the opposite. There was no relation between my beliefs and my experiences. Without realising it, I became increasingly bitter, hateful, lonely, unhappy and fell under severe depression. Objectivism had failed miserably to help me make sense of the world around me.

I had not always lived in a city. I moved to Mumbai in the year 2001. I grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Panvel. It was the nineties and internet was not as accessible as it is today. There were no bookstores, no libraries and no way to connect to the outside world. Our occasional trips to the big city were the only time I could visit bookstores. But having never heard of most of the authors, I had no idea about which books I should be reading. At any rate, most of the books were too expensive, and I could not afford to buy them anyway. I had spent most of my formative years trapped inside a tiny town with no opportunity to explore and learn more about the world. There was no way in which I could find the answers to the million or so questions that I had swirling in my head. The state board education system is not known for its ability to introduce its students to different ideas. My atheism and feminism developed very early in my childhood. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the abundant misogyny that I encountered every day in my life. These ideas took hold of me because as a young girl growing up I had been on the receiving end of many prejudices. But there were no experiences that could teach me about the concepts of socialism. So when in 2001, we finally moved to Mumbai and I was introduced to the writings of Rand, I immediately grabbed on to it.

At the age of 26, after failing at everything in life, I walked my confused right wing self into Mumbai University and secured an admission in their Masters Program in Political Science. It was here that I finally found what I had been looking for all my life. Ideas! So many of them!! Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Jeremy Bentham, Gandhi, Michael Sandel, Amartya Sen, John Rawls, Hannah Arendt, Karl Marx, Susan Okin, Michael Foucault, Nivedita Menon, Romila Thapar, Zoya Khan and many, many more. In the classrooms of the University, I explored socialism, capitalism, communism, feminism, communitarianism, individualism, libertarianism and many other ‘isms’. My experience was not unlike Alice’s when she falls down the rabbit hole and discovers a whole new world. Only the door that I had opened led to a world of knowledge!

It was here that I realised that Rand was an advocate of capitalism. She had convinced herself that money alone was the barometer of success and argued that the worth of an individual could be rightly measured by the wealth that they managed to accumulate. She took into account nothing else. She viewed everything from the prism of capitalism and expected it to explain the world around her. But the world is so much more complex than that and understanding it is far beyond the scope of any single theory, least of all capitalism. What Marx, Foucault, Arendt and all the other authors did was that they pointed out this very concept to me. They made me realise that reality is many layered. Unveiling one layer reveals another, which in turn reveals another and on and on it goes. There is not a single reality, like Rand believed; there are as many realities as there are human beings. Rand never understood this. She made the mistake that so many of us make; that of viewing the world with a simplistic perspective. Even the God that she believed in, personified by the character of John Galt in her book Atlas Shrugged, was unforgiving, unemotional and devoid of any compassion. She understood neither human nature nor human psychology. She knew and understood nothing!

I realised what Rand stood for, what her philosophy of Objectivism actually contained and I decided I wanted no part of it. I am much happier now and at peace. But there is one thing that still keeps me wondering. Must the thirst for knowledge be so hard to quench?

You must be to comment.
  1. Srinivas Murthy

    I read with interest, almost my own story since I was drawn to Ayn Rand around the age of 18-19 and stuck until I discovered right and left and center and how not to be any of these labels.. Until I came across “Romila Thapar”.. Tee heeee heee, seriously ??! The bitch that has hijacked history and imparting of history as a subject in India is your inspiration now? God bless you

  2. Nikita Bishnoi

    Really lovely! I faced a similar situation when I was growing up. I could connect so easily with what you wrote. Would love to read your next work!

  3. joesanders33

    This article has extended the streak of Rand hit pieces that deliberately lies about her work to roughly 179.

    I find it very telling that Rand’s detractors NEVER argue against her actual work or what she actually stood for.

    Nothing about Rand’s work suggested entitlement, nothing suggested being cold or emotionless at work or cutthroat. This whole article is a joke. The author should actually read Rand’s philosophical works as she will learn there is only one reality. In that reality, us Objectivists or Capitalists (as we are properly called. Literally only hit pieces call us ‘Randians’, and why is a mystery) lead passionate, happy, thriving lives when we apply reason to guiding our lives. My countless objectivist friends are BY FAR the most congenial, welcoming, warm people I’ve ever known because we all understand the value our friends and fellow thinkers bring to our lives. We see fellow humans as beings if tremendous value that we mutually benefit from, not beings in opposition that we are trying to leech off of or compete with. This article is sad in many ways, but the utter lack of intellectual honesty is disgusting.

  4. Kennon Gilson

    OP–Ayn Rand had a word for you: Randroids, or excitable people who tried to use her tools by making them another ideology and projecting their own assumptions. They stare at the pages of her books, but don’t actually read and think.

    Many of the things you say are in her books are palpably false. Her fiction works critique corporatism, unemotionalism, altruist pseudo-compassion, anti-feminism. Yet you claim her heroes (in which you include her villains) are emotionless, anti-feminist, corporate types, etc. and you somehow concluded this was Rand’s moral ideal.

    You say her philosophy was unhelpful. Did you read anything? Have you read or listened to the tapes presenting her philosophy, like the Branden’s Principles of Objectivism (also called Vision of Ayn Rand) or Principles of Efficient Thinking? You need to start there. You claim to love Aristotle. Are you aware she is considered a major Aristotelian philosopher? You like Foucault, who admitted to basically ripping off many of her ideas. She advocated her admirers study the Great Books of every culture. Are you doing this seriously or are you an intellectual dillettante?

    Glad you’re excited about Libertarianism, though. Before you mangle that as well, get informed: http://www.libertarian-international.org Good luck.

More from Radhika Jhaveri

Similar Posts

By Apurva Chavhan

By Yash Johri

By Aulina Pandey

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below