From the age I could hold a pencil, my mother brought me a multitude of coloring books. Now, I hate to break this to you, but I was (and probably still am) the worst painter of the century. But only losers quit, so I continued making those terrible paintings. After an awful lot of execrable sketches, I did what any horrible artist would – I started blaming my tools instead.
‘Maybe I need a better book!’ I said, as my hands brushed the bookshelves of the store. Just then, a poor boy on the cover of a book beckoned me, pleading me to save him from the appalling stares of a pompous man. I grabbed the opportunity and made his story an excuse to redeem the artist in me.
To my dismay, the book was devoid of any pictures. And for obvious reasons, I found hundreds of pages of words sans any pictures quite intimidating. But again, only losers quit, so I felt compelled to give it a read. And once I started reading, I was immediately transported to a Victorian world cruel to orphans. I also witnessed the lives of burglars and paupers. Forget the meaning, I could barely even pronounce the word ’empathy’, but this boy, Olivier, made me feel that!
Denial was my first reaction to fiction. After all, how could someone just conjure up lives and worlds out of nowhere? My eight-year-old mind was not willing to buy into the very concept of fiction. And then walked in my mom, the zealous reader whose genes I had inherited, to explain Oliver Twist to me. And that, folks, was my official initiation into the magical yet unknown world of books.
After a couple of children’s classics, I upgraded myself to more sophisticated genres. I took a sneak peek at the worlds far off and sometimes deep within, thanks to my mother’s library. My transitions were rather quick; one day, I was walking joyously around the fields with Heidi, and the next thing I knew, I was in Thornfield with Jane Eyre, challenging oppressive social norms with radical opinions.
My teenage head was home to the umpteen stories of the men I adored and the women I revered. I venerated Tess Durbeyfield, Anna Karenina, Jo March, Jane Eyre, Miranda, and countless others. In case you have not already concluded from my description, I was a hopeless romantic with unrealistic expectations. And while I was indulging myself with inks and fables, I also got enrolled in coaching classes. I soon had to give up on my reading to maintain my graph. The little girl who made meaningless paintings was now mindlessly solving MCQs. Unsurprisingly, I was soon in the firm clutches of depression.
On my seventeenth birthday, my mom gifted me Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith. Despite my skeptical nature, I could not help feeling touched by this thoughtful gift. Whenever boredom struck, I would leaf through the book and read a page at random. To my surprise, it turned out to be better than any self-help book I had ever read. In fact, I would go as far as to say that reading the book was a potentially life-saving decision!
I would go on to read most of Mitch Albom’s books, all of which were pretty great. However, this one in particular had a profound impact on me. True to its title, it was indeed a book about faith, though more importantly, it taught me how to strike the right balance in life.
My bookshelves are now an exciting blend of fiction and non-fiction. I am more into science, but have no qualms about admitting that every cell of my being bears the fragrance of the worlds I have been to. I still ramble over strings of words to go places, but with the right footwear of reality.
A NOTE TO OUR READERS
As someone who likes to connect with fellow readers to broaden her horizons, Neha M can be contacted on her email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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