My affair with books began when I was eleven. My reasons, however, at the time were different. I had moved to a co-ed school closer to my home. Having previously studied in an all-boys school attended mostly be middle-class students, the new school was high-end in every regard. Here, boys could be seen reading Hardy Boys and girls Nancy Drew.

As a shy kid, I mostly kept to myself. I would occasionally overhear my classmates talk about a particular story or novel. One day, my curiosity got the better of me and I borrowed a book from the roadside library. It was a book from the Hardy Boys. Once I started reading it, I was completely engrossed in it. I was fascinated by the lifestyle of teenage boys in America. Of course, at that age, I couldn’t fathom that the lifestyle mentioned in the book was completely imaginary! Before I knew it, I had started looking forward to reading. My reading habits helped me integrate with the rest of the class. Our mutual interest in reading made us lifelong friends. After reading a few of the books in the series, I decided to try other genres as well.

My English teacher suggested me to read mythological literature. I read the Mahabharata and then the Ramayana. I was intrigued. Reading these works truly changed my life. They made me aware of our glorious history, culture, and traditions. The next genre I tried was autobiographies. Over the years, I have read the life stories of historical figures. Emperors, queens, soldiers, athletes, business tycoons, management gurus, and spiritual teachers. Even today, whenever I am asked about my favorite genre, I am stumped for words. To be honest, I have no favorite genre. There are so many of them. I just love a good book, regardless of its theme.

My trips to Daryaganj and Connaught Place became a weekly affair. During my vacation, I was reading up to a book every day. I was also an active athlete. Over time, it got difficult for me to balance academics with my other two interests, cricket and books. My parents eventually had to guide me on how to find the right balance.

Today, I can proudly state that I have been reading for the last thirty-five years. While the lack of space forced me to give away several books in my cherished collection to like-minded, enthusiastic readers, eBooks have made sure that I always have the company of a good book. That said, the pleasure of having a book in your hands, sitting in a quiet place, and living the life of the protagonist is irreplaceable. Fortunately, my enthusiasm for reading has rubbed off on my kids, too.

Reading has made me a better person. I am calm and creative because of my reading habits. I remember how comfortable I was as a teenager talking about the Western lifestyle, history, sports, wars, global conflicts, politics, and spirituality. Middle-aged men and women were pleasantly surprised by my insights on any given topic. I was a part of several debate teams and won many an accolade along the way. Even to date, my eyes light up when I hear people talk about a subject on which I have extensive insights because of the books I have read. I have even made friends with like-minded individuals and enjoy spending time with them.

Today, as I am renovating my house, I am proud to announce that I will have a mini-library in my living room. That is probably the best way I can express my gratitude to books for everything they have done for me.


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