Events and Challenges, Life, Random

Grey Area – Bloganuary 2023

From my misc-pics-box here is a photo from our visit to Eibsee in April 2022. This turquoise beauty lies at the foot of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. It is aptly called the Caribbean of Germany.

Welcome to Bloganuary, a WordPress Challenge I am participating in this month, that provides a daily writing prompt throughout January.

Day 10 prompt is: Has a book changed your life?

A Bibliophile is something I would never dare to call myself. I envy those who casually mention reading as one of their hobbies and can finish one book a week. I, on the other hand, have been trying my best to cultivate this habit but have never been fully successful. Irrespective of what it contains inside, I always find a new book inviting. I don’t know if it’s the print-y smell, or the crisp pages, I just feel drawn towards an un-opened book.

I don’t really like reading novels, I think. I can think of only two that I’ve read and loved. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I borrowed them from my college roommate and read them around 2007. They are both set in war-torn Afghanistan touching various sensitive topics and are overall extremely difficult reads. Fifteen years later, I re-read The Kite Runner last October while travelling between my two homes in India and on the flight back to Germany. It is such a well written book and I can picture myself reading it again fifteen years later.

Coming to non-fiction, I am obsessed with personal finance. I learnt about the concept and wrote a post on FIRE (Financial Independence and Retiring Early) a few years ago. My feelings towards FIRE have somewhat changed after I moved to Germany but this is not the place to talk about that. Anyway, since the last few years, I enjoy watching digital content centered around personal finance and have also started reading books on this topic. First I read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Personally I did not like it that much. Yes it was easy to understand but it just wasn’t my type of book. Then around 2019 I picked up Monika Halan’s Lets Talk Money at the airport while flying from Bangalore to Delhi. I remember this so clearly because I used to fly a lot and I used to splurge at airport cafes but I never ever bought anything from the stores. I’ve always been a roamer, but never a buyer. However, I bought this one as my phone was almost out of charge and I wouldn’t have been able to listen to music on the flight. Now floating above the clouds with two and a half hours of your own thoughts is not unbearable, but I was probably not in that head space at that particular time and needed a distraction. And what a pleasant one this turned out to be. I even continued reading it during my vacation in Delhi and Haldwani. It was a very enjoyable read that covers personal finance from the Indian perspective and our relationship with money. I did not bring it back with me as I wanted my parents to read it as well. My dad read it the same month and my mom promises that she would read it one day. Then some time last year I read The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel and I can write paragraphs of praises for this one. This is one book I binge-read and loved. I realized that, when it comes to managing money, our behavioural instincts play as vital a role as swinging markets do. This book doesn’t talk about some ground-breaking discoveries or rules. It discusses natural human tendencies, the biases we all have, the usual decisions most of us would make in certain situations etc. And this simplicity in explaining these easily-understandable concepts was the highlight of this book for me.

In my early school years, I was always the topper in class. I did have a wonderful, memorable and fun-filled childhood, but I was also ultra-studious. If I was not at the 1st position, I would be in the top 3 at least and I was super competitive about academics. It would be fair to say that my relationship with my coursebooks (subject books) has been far better than that with story books or novels. Science always fascinated me, so did geography. I also loved language classes – I learnt English, Hindi and German at school and it was so much fun learning new words, concepts etc. As I came to 11th standard, I started hating the text books, because I think I was not really reading to learn but to clear exams or to get into a good college.

When my siblings and I were young, at home reading was always facilitated and encouraged. Our parents used to splurge on books. Now that I think about it, it was a lot! They bought us a lot of books with facts like the Tell me Why series. I think it was 5 books in total but I don’t think any of us read them fully. I also remember having a and reading the Guinness Book of World Records where we used to learn about the tallest man, the woman with maximum number of children, the longest nails etc.

Then came Childcraft which I absolutely adored. All of us read all of these books. A few of them, also made their way across the oceans to Australia as a gift for my sister’s children when they were younger and not into a million screens. These books were so well illustrated and wonderfully designed that I found comfort in reading them. I loved all of them actually and still clearly remember page layouts as well. My favourite I think was Vol. 10 ‘Mathemagic’ and a decade before it’s mis-spelt cousin became a part of our daily lives, from this book I learnt that a googol is 1 followed by 100 zeros. At school around this time, we had only gone up to a 1000 maybe, so I found this super fascinating.

Then came the huge bulky set of The World Book series. We used to love reading them together and also sharing newly-learnt facts with each other. A quarter of a century later (#feelingold) I think the person who used these the most is my dad. Whenever something was in the news, for example, reading about places like Iraq, Afghanistan, USSR, America, he used to pick up that volume and read to his heart’s content. Needless to say, he passed on that information to us, irrespective of whether we cared for it or not. This was our very own Google on a bookshelf. Everything was alphabetical and the index helped in easy searching. We loved it and used it as a family. In 2006 when my sister moved to Australia, it was the World Book that opened our eyes about this kangaroo- and koala-hosting foreign land on the other side of the world. Somewhere down the line, computers and internet made their way into our home and later into our hands so the encyclopedias started collecting dust. We still used them once in a while, but much less frequently than before. Last year, along with the Tell Me Why series, The World Book series was donated to a library.

I think these books played a vital role in my upbringing as they instilled in me this spark of inquisitiveness. Sometimes the information you read in them would be of no use to you later in life. But knowing unnecessary things and random information about varied topics is something I take immense pride in. In fact, even today I am guilty of carrying out endless research on various subjects that may or may not be faintly related to me. It’s fun. And now because of Google and Wikipedia, it’s like a never-ending rabbit hole.

Coming back to present day, there are some wonderful books I am reading since ages and unable to finish. How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman are all in my self-improvemenr basket. I randomly pick them up, read some pages, forget about them for weeks, then repeat.

I am not a daily reader, and not even a weekend reader. Sometimes I read while traveling, sometimes in my garden or while picnic-ing on a Sunday. If there’s something very interesting that I am reading, I tend to finish it faster. Earlier I would feel guilty about starting and not finishing books. Now I treat them like any other content I consume. I’ve skipped through YouTube videos, movie, songs, podcasts without feeling an ounce of guilt, so I started looking at books with the same lens. And however counter-intuitive it may seem, this has given me a great sense of freedom and definitely improved my relationship with my black and white bounded friends.


2 thoughts on “Grey Area – Bloganuary 2023”

  1. I love how you finished saying if you didn’t finish a book it it like watching a video on youtube. The past few years have been like that for me. I get books from library as a compulsion and just return when the due date runs without finishing. I am not going to feel guilty anymore 😊.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Ganga, I totally get what you’re saying because I have suffered with that too 🙂. I recently read this concept of treating books as any other media, that we are not obligated to read a book from start to finish in a particular amount of time. If it’s very very interesting our mind itself will. Compel us to binge-read it, but it’s ok to read at your own pace and be kind and forgiving to yourself if you’re unable to make it, for whatever reason. This realisation has alleviated me of the guilt and helps me read what I want when I want. 😊


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