Just like any other guy belonging to a typical Indian middle-class family, I was under a constant pressure to get good grades and outdo my siblings in academics. However, I felt like a fish out of water when it came to studies. My mum would often tell me off for never paying attention to my academic performance. Come to think of it, I even kept my results from my parents. My childhood was all about playing and frolicking. Anyway, let’s leave that story for another day.

But life, as they say, never remains the same. Even by that account, I could have never imagined how drastically things would eventually change for me. From being the most mischievous (and notorious, if I might add) backbencher in my class, I ended up becoming one of the most interactive students around. Well, it is fairly normal to wonder what brought about this sea change. Before curiosity gets the better of you, allow me to try and explain it.

Of all things, it was a ludicrous wager that brought about a great change in Amitesh

You see, I had ego issues. One day, while on the school bus on my way back home, my friend became involved in an altercation with this guy. The conceited me saw my friend’s fight as my own. I simply had to get involved. Teenage boys may be able to relate better to what I mean here. Anyhow, while dealing with that guy, who happened to be a topper and a multi-talented student, we were challenged to surpass him in the upcoming exams. Although we accepted the challenge, we had no idea how we were going to come up trumps.

Putting our vanity to some productive use for a change, we started working very hard. We had group-study sessions and took active part in class lessons. Time flew by and soon it was exam time. The results were pretty much along predictable lines – we had lost the bet. That said, it was not an entirely disheartening experience. We had all actually passed with flying colors. All of our teachers were in awe of us. That was probably because nobody expected us to do so well. While Mr. Topper had retained his position, his apparently routine performance was overshadowed by our extraordinary accomplishment.

While my other friends dismissed it as a flash in the pan, I decided to make it a habit. I realized that it was no longer about winning a meaningless wager. It was rather the recognition one got after doing well in the exams. Feeling like the star of your class – for all the right reasons, of course – was what had motivated me the most. As I matured over time, I understood the importance of reading. Books, I felt, could help one stand out from the crowd. They always give you that extra edge, something way beyond the scope of curriculum books. And I guess that’s the power of knowledge – the knowledge that comes from reading.

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