I am about to begin the first day of what may be my last year of college, the last year of being a student, just one more decisive little push away from childhood. Just now I had to take out this book and scan the cover, because there isn’t a good copy of it online, there isn’t even a Wikipedia page; and I had been very particular about wanting to post this cover because this is the image I will always associate with this novel, and the summer vacations at school spent reading about and imagining the Dehra Dun of Ruskin Bond’s stories.
So reading The Room on the Roof was a watershed of adolescence, as Bond perhaps intended it to be. I’d started reading Bond in instalments that came out in TeleKids, back when the children’s supplement of The Telegraph used to be published on Thursdays. Those were the, um… ‘safer’ stories. Growing up, I was entirely unacquainted with books that could be categorized as straightforward romances — sweet and simple boy-meets-girl stories — because my puritanical parents put a blanket ban on anything that promoted ‘that kind of thing’. I never read a Mills-and-Boon at an age when I might’ve enjoyed them. Never watched a Bollywood film at the theatre till I was old enough to watch them with friends. The ideal level of maturity for being excited about Love Story and Gone with the Wind passed me uneventfully by. But my parents didn’t actually look into the content of a book beyond the cover and the blurb, so I ended up reading a lot of potentially risque literature like The Godfather and The Diary of a Young Girl before I even entered high school.
The Room on the Roof was the first of that long list. I remember reading the novel over and over again, trying to come to terms with it, trying to decide if I liked it or hated it, trying to decide if I should like or hate it, wanting to discuss it with someone and never finding the ideal person. (Kids at the school I went to really did not read.) I haven’t returned to this book in more than ten years, but of late I am repeatedly reminded of how great an impression it has left on my mind. I can’t even recall the entire story to details but it keeps resurfacing, it’s like a latent obsession that had never quite gone away. I guess that’s a sign of a book being more than a just a story. More of a memory and an experience.