I have talked a lot about comfort reads. I think I’ve asked every single reader friend of mine what their comfort reads are...and mostly they’ve stared at me with a blank expression. That’s probably because I made up the term. But the feeling towards a comfort read is universal.
Comfort Read: A book you keep going back to, again and again, especially when your whole life turns upside down.
I have had two comfort reads from my childhood: The Room on the Roof by Ruskin Bond and Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I go back both these stories because despite whatever might be going on in my life, they give me the strength to hope for a better tomorrow. At the core, both stories are about orphans who are trying to find their place in the world. They both share the sentiment that they crawled out on to the surface of the world but they don’t truly belong to it.
Rusty’s friend Kishen helps him realize that if he feels as though he belongs nowhere, it could also mean “you belong everywhere.” That is one beautiful way of looking at things. And I used that very situation when I talked about my novella, When Our Worlds Collide’s Zayn Banerjee’s feeling of rootless. Akriti tells him the same thing, citing The Room on the Roof as an example. When you grow up shuffling through cities it is difficult to feel connected to one place. As opposed to that, when you grow up and stay in the same place forever, your roots are so deeply buried into the ground that it hurts to even dream about leaving the familiarity behind. It is during this time when you’re at war with yourself that these very books give you something to hold on to.
A classmate of mine had gifted me the copy of Daddy-Long-Legs that I own. I say classmate because I don’t think we were ever friends. In fact, I don’t think I made any real friends till I was quite old. But this book is special because it’s one of the only things the classmate had ever given me, and sadly we can never be friends now because she’s no longer here on Earth with us. But I’ll always be thankful to her for gifting me the story of Judy Abbott and her Daddy-Long-Legs. I was fifteen when I read that story (already into the world of Harry Potter), and I could relate to Judy so much. Not the fact that she was an orphan but the fact that she felt that she didn’t belong to the world and that she was struggling to be a writer.
I identified with Judy’s love for writing and her constant realisations that she wasn’t good enough to be one. In the end, of course, through hard work and determination, she became a wonderful little author and she found her happily ever after. The thing her story taught me was that sometimes happy ever afters don’t get handed to you. Sometimes, you need to go after it with a club.
So, what are the books you turn to when you’re down? What’s the one book that you just have to read every single year? Let me know! Maybe I’ll have a new comfort read added to my list based on your suggestions.