“Wait a minute, Solomon. I’ve got something for you,” these were the words of Dwarka ammachi, or grandma. She was the eldest and the most pious person in our local church. The eighth grader me surmised that it was some wonderful present or a savory delicacy, or that she was perhaps in need of some help. I kept guessing until she finally came out with a bunch of books. To my surprise (read horror), she told me that they were for me.

As is the case with most Indian kids, I was initially reluctant to accept that unsolicited present. However, I eventually had no choice but to take them. Even so, I was surprised that I, who had never even considered reading anything other than my textbooks, had been handed a pile of books in the most unexpected fashion. It turned out that the books had been left behind by her NRI grandson.

“Seriously, grandma?” I thought as I took the books from her. I thanked her out of common courtesy and took the stack home.

The next day, I unwrapped those books and started from the top. The first book was really boring in the beginning, but it kept getting interesting with every page. It was about Noam Chomsky’s take on the Middle East crisis. To be honest, I had never thought I would find myself that engrossed in the Iraq-USA conflict. Now, I must admit that the subject matter was a bit too much for my age and that I was unable to grasp several events described and analyzed in the book. That said, the book laid the foundations for my interest in the genre.

Anyways, at that time, I had the feeling that I needed to switch to another book or risk losing the little interest I had in reading. That is why I decided to go for a book that was relatively small in size and could be finished sooner. I eventually opted for the Tell Me Why? series. While those books kept me entertained, it was during my college life that I really took to serious reading.

I was particularly inspired when I read about Antonio di Marco Magliabechi, who still remains the most popular figure among the most hardcore bibliophiles. I still remember wondering as to how a man could read 40,000 books in a lifetime. Motivated to follow in his footsteps, I began to pick up pace. I would download random e-books and skim over their summary. If I found it interesting enough, I would then read the entire book in question.

Looking back, I am extremely grateful to ammachi for giving me those books, which urged me to start reading from an early age. She is the best example how even small acts of kindness can make a great deal of difference in people’s lives.


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