Children start coming into their own as they inch closer to their teenage years. Confusion may reign high as teenagers embark on a turbulent journey of self-discovery. Nandita Basu delicately addresses this in her 2022 Neev Book Award-shortlisted graphic novel, Rain Must Fall. Centred around the life of an adolescent, the book talks about isolation, erasure, and affirmation in Rumi’s quest of coming to terms with one’s sexuality and identity.
The book flows from one chapter to the next, much like the waves in the backdrop of this story. The black and white illustrations mirror the troubling fact that even the most complex emotions tend to be viewed in black and white sometimes.
In the process of learning to ignore the world’s derision, Rumi befriends an amiable ghost. So, is it a ghost story? “Not just a ghost story,” the first page of the book declares. It is also a book that promises to evoke feelings of warmth, compassion, and empathy. Below are a few ways in which Rain Must Fall gets into a teenager’s mind.
While Rumi had to constantly field questions about sexuality, it didn’t invalidate Rumi’s identity as a non-binary individual. Befriending and helping trace the life of Rain, a lost ghost, helped Rumi feel closer with oneself.
Challenges From Outside
While Rumi’s sexuality becomes the subject of ridicule and questioning, Rumi understands that the challenges to one’s identity from the outside do not matter. “I am not ashamed of my body. I don’t want another body. A man doesn’t have to explain why he feels like a man. Neither does a woman. So why do I have to explain why I don’t feel like either? Why do I have to carry a disclaimer and convince people that I am normal?” Rumi exclaimed.
The journey to self-acceptance
Rumi and Rain embark on a journey of healing and self-acceptance together. Their friendship enables them to leave behind the broken relationships and insecurities of the past, embrace the present and move forward. Their camaraderie is rooted in affirmation and trust. When Rumi feels lonely and exposed, Rain lends a shoulder, “You need to stop questioning yourself every time the world raises a finger at you. Because it’s a big world with a lot of fingers.”
Nandita Basu’s simple yet empowering story of an otherworldly friendship is suitable for all young adults.
About the Neev Book Award
The Neev Book Award for distinguished children’s literature was started in 2018 with an aim to recognize outstanding writing that leads to a fuller understanding of India, Indian lives, and Indian stories. This award aims to promote and encourage high-quality children’s literature from India. Each winner is honoured at the Neev Literature Festival for their contributions with a certificate, trophy, and cash award of ₹1,00,000. The shortlist for the 2022 Neev Book Award reflects the diversity of children’s literature, and spotlights how books may foster human qualities of empathy, grief, compassion, and perseverance in young readers.