I had just shifted from my quaint little school to Notre Dame in Patna in 2004. The level of education and social interactions was a definite challenge for me despite having studied at a Catholic school. Repeating the same pattern as old as humanity itself, I was desperately trying to fit in and not be noticed for my subpar language or social skills.
Then I entered my school library which was a good place to be at in the primary section but the high school one was even a step up. Thus began a long enduring affair with books which would last a lifetime. For a person who was always ill at ease whenever people around me seemed to be rejoicing during apparently happy occasions, the characters in the book didn’t make me feel out of place. It was subject to my interpretation, not demanding anything, just being what they are and allowing me to interact with the characters at my own pace.
But even better was the library. It didn’t have some fascinating Gothic architecture or an enviable collection of books but it was to me what a church might be to the pious. Simple wooden chairs placed around circular tables in three rooms, each with its own distinct feel. The main room was a large spacious well lit room where there was no scope for you to chat with your friends lest you wanted to be kicked out by the librarian. The second one was good for discussing Christmas plans with your close circle of friends. The third room was one I disliked because it was filled with course books and no one needed more of those in their lives.
During winters, there was a particular spot near the huge glass window from where you could see the entrance to the school, lined by long trees. It was my favorite spot — an odd peace would settle over me as soon as I sat there with a book in my hands, looking at my friends laughing in hushed tones over some random story. Now that I think of it, I didn’t bother participating in those conversations. It was just good to see them laugh and for a few moments, I didn’t envy them for their happiness. There are few places whose memory itself makes you feel at home and I guess I am fortunate enough to still be able to recall one such memory at will.