I am writing this from a train. It is early in the morning, somehow a common timing in my writings, and the vehicle is taking me into industrial heartlands of my country, India, from my home state of West Bengal. The journey is of a meager three hours, but I have waited for it for almost three years. It signifies small, token deliverance from an extended period of stress and hardship in my life.
This journey may end up not yielding any results at all, in which case I will have to go back to my old life. However, I will do it happier this time round. Because I made it this far once. The pathway to this stage will be easier the next time round. In case you are wondering what this mysterious journey I am talking about is, I am visiting a neighboring state for postgraduate level college interviews.
The examinations I appeared for required preparation intense in a degree I’d never known before. After clearing those written tests one reaches a Personal Interview process, which is what I’m about to attend – and in case I’m found inadequately prepared, I’ll have to slog another year.
However, I am prepared for the worst. I have survived the rigor once, and met an unlikely champion of happiness along the way. Unlikely, for me, because I used to almost magically gravitate towards the grittier parts of life in the past. This new champion is lighter, like most of the new things I’ve come to love over the course of my exam preparation. The champion is sugary, candid, romantic literature, easy to grasp and filled with love, happiness and rainbows.
So, do I recommend it for others? Why?
Absolutely. I think indulging in the perusing of these books as a pleasure not guilty may have its own pros for a happy life, that are worth exploring. They are:
• Not all times and people are for Charles Dickens: with due respect to the wonderful man, whose novel “Oliver Twist” is one of my favorite books ever by the way, you may not always deserve the snooty stares you get from literature majors when you say you like reading Rainbow Rowell. Expository, incisive literature is a wonder of the world, and something without which the world might not progress at all, but there is a time and place for everything. Last year, sandwiched between backbreaking workload and my fears of failure and humiliation, I hardly had the frame of mind or time required for perusing Elif Shafak. Many of you may share my predicament from time to time.
• Silly is good, good, oh so good: as we grow into adults, the world teaches us that what is reckless is only suited to childhood. They then argue that only something like The Goldfinch can be for adults, and Stephanie Perkins’ Anna, Lola, Isla series will take you back to ‘unproductive’ childhood. However, if childhood was not at all useful, why do we miss it so much? And if nothing outside of the traditionally ‘grown-up’ things paid the bills or made you famous, why does Elon Musk’s Tesla exist and take everyone’s breath away? Why does Lionel Messi, someone who plays with a ball outside of an office all day, inspire quotes like “Messi if you played in Heaven, I’d die just to watch you” from an adult? If you don’t dare to dream different, you are never going to invent the first nursing school in space. And if light books are your different things, ‘childish’ things, so be it. Childhood was after all the last time all of your dreams were fulfilled. A second installment must be perfect.
• ‘Wish-fulfilment’ literature might lead to other forms of creative entertainment: some things are personal. I keep several journals where I write down fiction in which a character which I model after myself has her life pan out the way I want mine to. There are also other characters included in those universes, modeled after people I like in real life. While this thing is a personal quirk of mine, I believe I drew the idea from cutesy literature I read as a kid, and was inspired by the warmth of. I also found the mental energy and optimism to keep going by reading more of the light stuff, whereas I find that dark literature tends to kill my mood by being too reflective of my daily struggles I’d rather forget. I am not saying this will be the same for everyone, but light literature might just inspire the next Taylor Swift hiding in you – who really knows?
• Lastly, all judgments of ‘weight’ and ‘worth’ are relative: to a large degree, I like reading Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell and Jenny Han because of how readable they are, and how relevant they are to my emotions. And I believe my emotions and I myself, count. I also often listen to Taylor Swift over Pink Floyd for the same reason – she often gets me better (but I love myself some Floyd too). Arbitrary judgments of ‘highbrow’ people do not always have to define your tastes. That is doing a sheer disservice to the talent of people like Ms Perkins and Ms Swift, and to the quote “If you think reading is boring, you are doing it wrong”.
I would like to conclude with only one sentence – Stephanie Perkins, Robin Stevens, Taylor Swift, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo – I love you all. Thank you for existing and inspiring.