Altering My Mental State Without Psychedelic Drugs

I used to find books reprehensible as a kid and saw reading as an incredibly futile pursuit. Why would I want to gain knowledge that will never be put to test? Following the same tangent, the little I read was exclusive to academics. Desperate attempts were made to usher me into the cult of readers, all in vain. I would read a page or two and quit. My father introduced me to different authors each time. He was convinced that his daughter hated only a few authors, and not books altogether. I bounced from Roald Dahl to Enid Blyton, from fantasy to comic strips. Practically none of them appealed to me. Alas, my younger self had cheap taste.

The fashion in which I developed the habit of reading is the most organic and pure event in my life. I was caught in moments of serious emotional distress. My grandmother had left for the heavenly abode, and I was distraught, overwhelmed and confused. This was my first encounter with the concept of mortality. It was too much to digest. Let’s just say, I didn’t grieve properly, still haven’t. This was the time I felt I had to escape my real life. I fumbled through an old carton and picked a book randomly. I didn’t care about the genre, the author, nothing. I still remember the smell of paperback and dusty book jackets. ‘Nothing Lasts Forever- Sidney Sheldon’, read the cover. I had no clue what to look forward to. Having flipped through a few pages, I knew I wouldn’t set the book down anytime soon. With each chapter, came a twist and an unexpected crescendo. No amount of flowery words shall suffice in describing the literary genius of the author. He had me hooked. Hooked to books for life.

I can’t help but admit I’m conservative and hard-line. I hate novelty. The idea of something “new” is repulsive. Owing to the same, I read only and only true crime thrillers, for nearly a year. While it was comforting, it dawned upon me that there was a lot I was missing out on. I would upgrade periodically. I didn’t start simple, I rather overstepped. I took to reading classics like The Godfather. It was one of the most immersive reading experiences I have had. Now, almost every book strikes a chord inside me. Not to mention, some of them have been an utter disappointment. Yet, I never leave a book midway. I don’t want the Book to feel disenfranchised, hurt or forlorn. Yes, I am taking the liberty of personifying an inanimate object. Looking down upon a book as a mere ‘object’ is blatant reductionism.

The past few years have been extraordinary. I decided to go freestyle and read practically whatever I came across. Here are some honourable mentions, in no particular order- Anita Desai, Shashi Tharoor, Satyajit Ray, Anne Frank, Mark Manson, Haruki Murakami, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and William Shakespeare. I am thankful to these people, dead or alive, for giving my life a purpose. In retrospect, I’m embarrassed by the dismissive views I had on books.

It’s good to look back on life and see what I have outgrown. My personality is nothing but layers of my favourite characters. I can say with considerable certainty that my brain gets re-wired with every book I read. My imaginative faculties strengthen successively. The knowledge helps in the most incredible ways. Even if it isn’t put to use, I am glad to have acquired it anyway. Every character is so well-crafted, intricate and real. I live through their anger, pain, despair and mirth. Our real-world persona tends to become overbearing. One could always use a book, more than anything else. At this avenue in life, you may deprive me of nourishment, but not of books. The latter is always more outrageous.

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