Reading Romance – Escapist or Cathartic

The wonderful Kiran Manral asked me a question at a panel discussion at the Womens Writer’s Fest in Hyderabad recently. The question was “Is reading romance cathartic or escapist?”

I believe my answer to that was ‘It is cathartic.’ Nerves, stage fright and a gimlet eyed distinguished audience, made me ramble a bit and eventually land at cathartic.

It’s a question that has since stayed in my head, my thoughts circling around it. I don’t believe I did either the question or my thoughts justice that day. And so, I’m going to try to be a little more articulate today.

Reading, and not just reading romance, but reading in general is never any one thing at any one given point of time. If I had to answer again, I’d say it’s both – cathartic and escapist. It’s also at times, neither. It all depends on the mood in which you’re reading and what you’re seeking from the experience at that point in time.

Books are a step into another world. What that world is depends entirely on the book in your hands and the perspective with which you view it.

It could be a world that takes you into a reality far removed from your own. Or a world that holds a magnifying glass to your own and to your life, peeling away layers that you didn’t know existed. It could be a world that while paralleling yours is still miles away from it.  It could be a world that might, potentially, exist in the future. But what it eventually will be, is the world you want it to be. The one you’re seeking in the pages of the book you’re reading.

And that’s why reading, romance or otherwise, is sometimes escapist, sometimes cathartic, sometimes both, sometimes more and sometimes all of it and everything in between.

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