Some people love to play video games, while others prefer a couch, some popcorns, and some good old binge watching. There are also people who are addicted to staying fit or the ones who can’t live without a visit to the mall every now and then.
And then, there are people like Aisha Arif Esbhani, a 13-year-old Pakistani, who can’t live without a book by her side. Addiction is a strange thing.
Even at such a tiny age, Aisha has big dreams for herself. Last year, she embarked on a mission to read a book from every country on the planet. Impressed, I reached out to Aisha to talk about her wonderful journey through the literary works from around the world.
“Aisha is on a mission to read a book from every country on the globe”.
“Reading has always been my passion!” said Aisha. “And throughout the years, there is one thing I have noticed- the power of words! Words can really change a person’s perspective of the world!”
Reading is a wonderful habit and it helps you in more ways than you can imagine; it helps you write better, improves your memory, helps develop analytical thinking and even makes you smarter. While there are a number of obvious benefits that come from reading, studies have also shown that reading is one of the best ways to improve empathy.
“What great writers do is to turn you into the writer. In literary fiction, the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others,” says psychologist and researcher David Comer Kidd.
A resident of Karachi, Aisha is currently a student at the Karachi Grammar School. She studies in the 8th grade but you would never know that by the way she talks. Nothing about the way she talks or the magnitude of the mission she has taken off is reflective of how old she is. She is mature well beyond her age and her hold on the English language is remarkable to say the very least. She is also an exceptional writer, and has also been featured in Dawn, a leading English daily.
“After discovering that most of the books I read as a preschooler, as an adolescent, were by a British or North American author, I wanted to explore the writers of the African continent and the tiny islands in Asia,” she wrote in a post on her Facebook page, Reading Books From Every Country.
“I wanted to explore the nations of which I had never read any books. I wanted to explore stories that had been translated into English.”
Her love for reading has always pushed her into trying the most of it. Her journey started back in April 2016, when she set herself on a quest of reading at least one novel, short story collection or memoir from every single country of the world i.e. written by a native author belonging to every single country.
She created a Facebook page and got a lot of appreciation from social media users around Pakistan as well as around the world. Notable personalities reached out to her to commend her on her efforts and help her out. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Former President of Nigeria, sent her a message with the names of some great Nigerian author, while Karlis Verdins, a poet Latvia provided her a story “Come to Me”.
However, in December of last year, Facebook removed her page for violating their underage policy. Ironically, she turned 13 just a few days after her page was removed. Aisha didn’t give up at that and created a new Facebook page all over again.
“She has already completed 80 countries.”
Aisha has uploaded a complete list of all the books she has read as well as the ones she plans to read on her page. She also regularly uploads reviews of the books she finds interesting and worth reading. Aisha is open for recommendations for the countries she still hasn’t checked off and you are welcome to help her out by commenting on her list.
When I asked this inspirational little teenager to share a few lines about her love for reading and her plans for the future, she said that she has always wanted to be an author and reading has played a really important role in that. It has made her vocabulary and sentence structure so much better already.
Hopefully, there will come a day when I will be holding a book in my hand with Aisha Arif Eshbani’s name on the front. That day, I will recall the time when I talked to her about her wonderful journey in the world of books and regret not taking her autograph when I had the chance.