As a South Indian girl who looked forward to going to the North, passing my twelfth-standard exams offered an opportunity to fulfill this long-term goal of mine. I clearly remember the day when I reached the university where I was to graduate in the coming years. It was a scorching day in July 2018.

My foray into the world of reading actually began from my university days. I was not proficient in the local language (Hindi). Add to it the nervousness brought about by the fact of being in a new environment, and it’s safe to say that I wasn’t at my confident best. My parents stayed with me for a couple of days before heading back down South, leaving me to fend for myself.

It only took an hour for a feeling of solitude to start haunting me. I consoled myself that it was only a matter of time as the commencement of my classes would open up new opportunities of making a lot of new friends. I was in for a surprise, though. I was shunned and isolated because of our linguistic and cultural differences. The only people I effectively talked to were my parents – and even that was nothing more than an occasional phone call.

The more I tried to swallow my pride and be as objective about people as I possibly could, the more I felt that I was being given the cold shoulder on purpose. As one would expect, it took me a good while to arrive at this conclusion, but once I realized it, I decided that I was done running after people to seek their friendship. And that’s when I turned to books. They not only helped me in my academic life, but also offered me their valuable companionship. I started reading a wide range of books during my leisure hours at the hostel.

One day, I had this crazy idea of learning Hindi. I started reading some books and kept practicing the precious little I had learned the day before. It didn’t take me long to become fluent in the local language. Interestingly, the better I got at Hindi, the more friends I seemed to have.

However, my friendship with humans did not, in any way, affect my relationship with books. If anything, I started reading more voraciously. For me, books will always be the companions I can bank on in my times of misery and joy.

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