Will you believe me if I told you that I had not read a single novel before I completed high school? You most likely will not. But that’s just how I was. For someone who saw out-of-syllabus books as nothing but a waste of time, even my course books took aeons to complete. That said, I was not averse to reading per se. In fact, I was quite interested in science. It was fairly normal for me to borrow science books or magazines. The queer part was that I never had the patience to make it to the end of any of those.

However, I preferred to understand the underlying principles to just finishing a book for the sake of it. As a person who was more inclined to reason than emotions, fiction was an absolute no for me. If I were to pinpoint one genre that I would have hated to read, it would have to be romance. But, as is often the case with life, that was exactly what I ended up reading – that too in the middle of my pre-boards!

I actually had my biology exam in two days’ time. I was studying in my room, which I shared with my brother. Now, he had recently borrowed Revolution 2020 from a friend of his. The book had been lying on my table for quite some time, but I had simply been ignoring it.

As exam stress caught up with me, I decided to read something that was not biology. I picked up the book, albeit reluctantly. Like every new reader, I simply wanted to gauge the book’s contents by its cover and thickness. Then I had a change of mind and decided to read a few pages before putting it down. I looked set to make good on my resolution as long as I skimmed through the prologue, which was not particularly interesting. However, there was no looking back once I became curious about the character.

I became so engrossed in reading that I ended up finishing nearly 35 pages in one sitting. I was also taken aback by the pace at which I was reading. The surprise was followed by the fear of flunking the forthcoming exam. Unwillingly, I put the novel aside and resumed preparing for the test. But it was probably too late by then – my mind was already captivated by the story and its characters. I was already traveling in the world I had just read about.

As studying became harder with every passing moment, guilt start getting the better of me. I actually regretted picking up the novel in the first place. To do away with that remorse, I decided to finish with the rest of the book. Given my circumstances, I knew it would be difficult to read it to the end in one day, so I switched to the last part to try and learn more about how the story had eventually panned out. This obviously compounded matters as all my assumptions and speculations flew out of the window. I kept guessing what might have happened, trying to make sense of the little information I had garnered thus far.

Eventually, I was left with no choice but to finish it as soon as possible. In an attempt to hastily complete it, I actually had to read some lines twice to comprehend them. In the end, it was an exciting experience that served as a great stress buster and helped me put myself in someone else’s shoes. It was like a movie playing on the screen of my imagination. I somehow managed to read the book and prepare for my exam in about two days.

It did not end there, though. I now found myself zealously recommending the book to all my friends. I began reading novels – both fiction and non-fiction – on a more regular basis.

Even now, while reading autobiographies, I sometimes tend to google the characters to learn more about them. I fervently believe that stories shape our lives. Their characters, whether real or otherwise, can teach us a lot of things. They can be our role models; we can imbibe their positive traits and learn from the mistakes they made.

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