More or less dragged by his wife, Krishna Narayanamurti dutifully placed a foot on a step that led up a mountain to the Tirumala Temple in India. He looked at the number on the step: 100.
Only 3,900 more to go.
“This is ridiculous,” he thought. “What a waste of time.”
Once at the temple, Narayanamurti resisted rolling his eyes at the 8-foot tall statue of a gold-adorned Lord Venkateswara, whose devotees believe embodies the living spirit of god.
But those black granite eyes sucked him in.
“I really felt that the statue was looking at me,” Narayanamurti recalled. “I know it sounds insane. The statue was drawing me in with its eyes.”
The cynical side of him softened.
“Maybe there’s something behind this mythology,” he thought. “It made me delve into Hinduism in a serious way for the first time.”
Narayanamurti, who graduated May 11 with a degree from the Master of Professional Writing (MPW) program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, has written 120 pages of his memoir, 4,000 Steps to God.
More than a memoir, the book is a spiritual journey and a different take on the best-selling memoir Eat Pray Love, he said. The journey is viewed from the perspective of a United States-born Indian going back to India. In the book, he talks about the four paths of yoga — karma (selfless service), bhakti (devotion to God), raja (renunciation) and jnana (knowledge).
“You have to blend all four types of yoga in your life, not just focus on one,” Narayanamurti said. “That has been one of my discoveries.”
A first-generation Indian American, Narayanamurti was born in New Jersey to a physicist father and a child psychologist mother. His family moved to New Mexico during his middle school years and later settled in Santa Barbara. He earned his bachelor’s in film and studied theatre at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Wanting to write, he researched master’s programs.
“I knew if I wanted to pursue the creative arts, I had to just go for it,” he said. “MPW was the only program I could find that had a multigenre approach.”
The MPW program kick-started Narayanamurti’s writing career. A multimedia producer at California State University, Northridge, he knew he had a book in him, and the program helped him to access it.
As a student, Narayanamurti partnered with PEN Center USA’s PEN in the Classroom residency program, going into local high schools and teaching a multigenre writing course.
“People often say, ‘I’m a writer,’ but they don’t have anything to show for it,” he said. “Now I have the actual pages.”