‘What revolves around the nucleus?’

‘Electrons,’ shouted a fifth grader.

The shocked tuition teacher praised him in front of all the other students, adding that it was unbelievable how a kid as small as him knew what students in the ninth grade struggled to remember.

Yep, that kid was me. From my childhood, I had loved checking out the pictures in my books. Words were still an enigma for me. Subjects like physics, chemistry and biology especially confounded me. However, I was a very curious kid. It was my curiosity that made me listen to whatever my teacher taught to my seniors, including my elder brother. And, ladies and gentlemen, that was how a fifth grader knew a lot more than he was expected to.

Interestingly, this was also the start of my realization how amazing books – and not just the illustrations in them – could actually be. Well, social validation played a role in it too, for whenever someone saw me with a book, they would be all praise for me. This made me feel like some genius.

Growing up, I began enjoying reading a lot more, to the point that social acceptance mattered for very little. Reading made me happy. As a result, by the time I was in grade ten, I had read a good number of books. Thereafter, I changed schools to Kendriya Vidyalaya, where I found a massive library with a staggering number of books! It was here that I began delving into a variety of genres. This phase in my life also saw me being drawn to the Indian defense forces and its rich history. Wishing to join the organization later in life, I started watching podcasts of retired army officers. I also read some amazing books like 1971: Charge of the Gorkhas and Other Stories and India’s Most Fearless, among others.

So, that was all about the journey of a normal boy who turned to books in pursuit of praise by others. In all honesty, that tiny “electron” was what kick-started this transformation. There are times when I think of myself as the same electron, one whose life revolves around books instead of a nucleus. Well, there is a difference, too. While electrons may be negative, I am highly positive.

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