The Purple Book

One of the first self-help books that I ever picked up was named ‘A Guide on How to be Emotionally Intelligent.’ I don’t remember much about the book except that it was a thin, purple book, with pages that were rough to the touch. I had picked it up at the school book-fair, only because it stood out on a particularly high shelf. As a twelve-year-old, perched on the edge of her teens, struggling with wide-ranging issues, the book had seemed the most obvious choice, although thinking back, I am not so sure why. I remember rushing to my mother and I remember her sighing with relief, almost happy that I hadn’t picked up a handful of fictional reads. That year I picked up just one book and it was this, a scrawny, purple book. I carried the book everywhere with me, on road trips, to school and to events where reading wasn’t even a minute possibility. I would open the book, dreading the rough pages and would read only one page, chosen carefully through a random number roulette in my mind, which I realize is a disastrous way to read a book but for the twelve-year-old, who dreamt of somehow becoming wise enough to deal with her emotions, the book wasn’t just a book, it came with the hope that somehow the words put together inside that book, would be my saving grace. I held on to that book for almost a year and a half, hoping that maybe someday, I’d sit and finish the unbearably long 100 pages but I never could, many books came and many books went but this one stayed. Eventually, it got pushed to the back of my shelf and I completely forgot about its existence, until a few years later, as a sixteen-year-old, amidst a cleaning task, I found it, lying untouched. The purple of the cover had faded and the pages were turning yellow and rougher than ever and I thought to myself, perhaps now was the time to read it. I read through exactly 20 pages, in order before shutting it again and putting it back on the shelf. I hated it, hate was perhaps an understatement but there are no words stronger than hate to describe what I felt. It’s not that I hadn’t hated books before but the hate could never stop me from completing a book, yet this one was just invincible.

Over the course of four years and a few thousand attempts, haphazard and otherwise, I figured that this book just couldn’t be read, not by me at least. This was the only self-help book that I had ever picked up and will probably be the only self-help book I’ll pick up for a while. You see, when I picked up the book, I didn’t even know what being emotionally intelligent meant, I just knew the hope I had, misplaced hope rather, that it would magically change my life but the reality was so much more different. When I opened the book for the first time and read a few pages, I remembered feeling more hopeless than ever which I later realized was much more than just hopelessness, it was annoyance at how sometimes self-help books look down on you from the pedestal they have placed themselves on, claiming to know the ways in which you could fix yourself but all they ever did was talk and talk and tell you that something was wrong with you.

Over the years, I have taught myself that I love words, as little and as much as everybody around me, irrespective of whether I could complete one purple book. I taught myself that words can heal, as words from many other books and strangers have but the ones from a self-help book are not the ones to count on. The scrawny, purple book is still on my shelf, without a scratch and I have made my peace with the fact that I’ll always love the yellow pages inside it but never the words on them.

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