Coming from a small town, studying in a state-board school and choosing the science stream for my high-school life (yep, checking all the boxes for an engineering career), I was told that I was supposed to be reading every day. And read I did. I read my textbooks, every single day. For all its benefits, which I am certainly not denying or downplaying, it never even occurred to me that I was supposed to be broadening my horizons.  However, looking beyond my curriculum would have neither helped me with my grades, nor would it have implied any immediate monetary benefits. So, what exactly was I supposed to gain from reading books that had absolutely nothing to do with my present or future?

Looking back at those days, it’s not hard to see where I was mistaken. It did not dawn on me until I was in college, among the people that hailed from all parts of our beautifully diverse country; all sorts of people from distinct backgrounds and well versed in their knowledge of both the real and fictional worlds. I noticed that being an avid reader was an absolute must to be regarded as cool, smart or knowledgeable. Now, I’m definitely not trying to postulate that you have to be a reader to come across as smart and presentable. However, a very meticulous observation of the people around you will definitely indicate some sort of a correlation. So, under the peer pressure of becoming smarter than I was, I embraced the habit of reading – and I have never looked back since!

Kalpesh Odedra owes a major part of his 'coolness' to his passionate reading habits

I had always been fond of stories, even before I had become a reader. I would often turn to movies to get my timely doses of stories. But, once I had delved into the world of literature, I was just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and detail that a book could provide. I realized that a worthwhile book could make me live the life of its protagonist. Moreover, the knowledge and experience we gain from living someone else’s life and understanding their viewpoint can do wonders in our own lives. A book is a completely different world in itself and its characters are as animate as we are; they are conscious beings that act, invoke ideas and feel like any other mortal being.

Fast-forward to the present, and here you have a person that reads a lot. I read novels, comics, short stories, light YA novels, graphic novels, fiction, mystery, horror – you name it. It’s hard to describe in words how a good book can prove to be a breath of fresh air in our dull lives. To illustrate my point, I’m sure most of you would have been left scratching your heads after looking at the first scene of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. I, on the other hand, had no issues whatsoever decoding it, not because I am exceptionally smart (okay, I probably am!), but because I had read A.G. Riddle’s The Atlantis Gene. No, the book had nothing to do with A Space Odyssey – and that’s exactly my point here! Books can help us in ways we can’t even imagine, and that’s what makes them such wonderful things.

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