Books, as we all know, are immensely effective when it comes to transforming lives for the better. They are like a cold and relaxing breeze on a sweltering summer afternoon – often unexpected, but welcome nonetheless. They also play the role of loyal friends throughout our lives, sometimes triggering the most beautiful and sublime thoughts in us.
My present lofty thoughts aside, I had not always been an avid reader. In fact, I had always viewed books from a strictly academic viewpoint. In other words, books were just a means to scoring well in exams. At most, I read the occasional storybook or comic, but never went or even thought beyond them. All this change when, one day, I stumbled upon an article penned down by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. In that piece, he talked about the importance of reading in our lives. I complied with his advice and bought one of his then recently released books, Forge Your Future. This book paved the way for my future relationship with books.
My perspective on books had undergone a 360-degree transformation. I had started reading with a learning, and not a scoring, mindset. This new approach motivated me to pursue knowledge instead of perfection. As a result, I developed a better understanding of the fine distinction between right and wrong. Over time, I realized that books were not just some means of gaining knowledge. They could even serve as tools to fine-tune our life to the betterment of the self and the society.
Regular reading helped me improve my cognitive abilities. I started drawing important lessons from others’ lives. The autobiographies and works of eminent individuals like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Francis Bacon, William Shakespeare, to name a few, went a long way in making me a better person. Previously, I lived in a small bubble of limited knowledge about my environment. The autobiographies I read helped me step out of that bubble and broaden my horizons. I began to express myself better and became more considerate toward the people around me.
The more I read about the world, the more I learned about myself. It was as though the bright light of knowledge was clearing away the shadow of ignorance cast on my life. In addition, books also had a profound effect on my social etiquette. I started indulging in real conversations, to try and understand things from others’ perspective. My habit of clinging on to things also became less rigid. I learned to let go of the things in which I had no say, while holding myself accountable for the things that I could control.
Another benefit I unknowingly derived from reading was that it purged my mind of an inflated and misplaced ego. They replaced my vanity with a remarkable discipline and introduced some sense of order in my life. Interestingly, they made me feel complacent about my material belongings, while adding to my discontent over my little spiritual understanding. This desire to improve helped me cleanse my soul and gain a better understanding of the spiritual and scientific aspects of life.
People say that books teach us a lot. However, what purpose does it serve to mug up random and often irrelevant facts and figures? Think of the human mind as a simple basket. While the basket has so many holes that it cannot hold any water, the endeavor of filling it with water ends up cleaning it again and again. This, in turn, gives it a glittering effect. The same goes for our minds – books cleanse and purify our souls, just like water does with the basket.
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