Interesting Books for Children: Art and Poetry

Continuing with my blog posts on interesting books for children, I have for you, two uniquely crafted gems, especially for the little ones interested in the arts. Every child, who likes to read, has her own favourites when it comes to mainstream fiction, and there is no harm in that. Children, typically, love to devour all the books in a particular series before moving on to the next. It is akin to the voracious appetite of a caterpillar; the young minds thirst for more of what they like. The trouble arises only when they stick to their favourites alone, like fantasy, or mystery, or comics. Whenever one gets a chance, it is worthwhile to introduce them to diverse subjects and domains, through their love for reading.

The two books that I am reviewing today, are meant for young readers who have already fallen in love with the written word and can use books as a portal to expand their thinking horizons.

The first one is a collection of poems, some silly, some nonsensical, some deep but each one related to a topic that is relevant to a school-going kid. There are poems about shirking homework, learning of the alphabets and even about moms and dads 🙂

The name of the book is Poem Depot: aisles of smiles by Douglas Florian. The illustration adds to the humour and is guaranteed to attract young readers. My personal favourite from the collection, which I would like to repeat to my tweenager, as often as I can, is the one on time.

As the poem goes –

You can’t see time

Or hear

Or smell

Or talk to time

But time will tell.

I am sure if you try explaining this to an eight year old, you would probably grasp the essence of life itself! Several poems in this book struck a chord with my kid and I saw her diligently jotting them down in her diary.

The second book is a special book for young art lovers. It is essentially an art history book for children called Vincent’s Starry Night and other stories by Michael Bird. The history of world art starts from the cave paintings and goes up to the present day. I didn’t read it myself and hence I asked my 11 year old for a feedback. To paraphrase our conversation – “The book is part story book and part encyclopedia. It gives factual information about famous artists while showing us a day in the life of the artist. Some of the statements cannot be attributed to the painters as the language is modern but the story part is definitely interesting to read. What I like the best is that if you don’t want to read about the artist, you can still gaze at their painting.”

https://www.amazon.com/Vincents-Starry-Night-Other-Stories/dp/1780676158

So if you do feel that your child’s mind could be enriched with some poetry and art, do go ahead and get these books.

 

 

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Fiction: Meeting life by the seashore

Paradise Bay Resort, Room#2A

The sea breeze blew in through the open window, shaking up the curtains from their twilight slumber. As the light blue and white star patterned cloth rose higher with every puff of wind from the sea, the writer noticed that a photo frame on the desk was being nudged away from its position on the writing desk. Her eyes followed the trajectory that the frame was likely to take if it were to fall; she knew that, the cup of coffee that she had managed to elicit from the dilapidated coffee machine in the room, was in danger. She sat at her desk, chewing on her pen, wondering how long before she would have to press the buttons again for a new cup of coffee, when there was a crash followed by a dull thud as the photo frame fell, taking the coffee cup along with it, which obediently fell onto the day’s newspaper on which it was kept. A tiny rivulet of coffee trickled down to the floor below, while the rest was soaked up by the newspaper.

That’s more drama than I could drivel up in a week’s time.

The writer sighed and picked up the cup to get her refill. Once she won the wrestling match with the coffee machine, she went straight out of the room, to the hammock outside. She couldn’t bear to see the coffee stain on the newspaper and the floor and yet, disdain towards any physical activity, except for lifting her pen, made her wait for room service. She straightened her back and reclined like a princess, her thoughts wavering – I am a writer and I should write but about what?

Soon enough her body slumped into the shapeless hammock.

My mind is as shapeless as my body now. It is a garbage dump, tonnes of useless information gets stuffed into every day.

Of course, some were being dumped with the hopes of being retrieved and recycled some day. The recycling programme had failed miserably so far, due to a drought in creativity.

‘Damn!” she remarked, as she heard a pair of kids laughing and screaming as if they were animals let out of the zoo. “Haven’t these kids seen the sand and the sea, before?”

Her mind ached for some peace. However, between the coffee stained writing desk and a hammock with a view of the noisy children, she preferred the hammock. Back in her New York loft, she would have crowned herself with her ear-cancelling headphones and reigned supreme over a peaceful morning. But the lack of open space and the conspicuous absence of the sky at her window had led her to this beautiful island near Borneo. The sea, she thought, would help her smoothen her frayed nerves and focus on her writings. Little did she know that all the miserable people in this world, who were looking for their own chunk of the blue sky and a pail of the blue sea to dip it in, would descend on this island at the same time!

Paradise Bay Resort, Room #2D

She lay her feet on the cold, bare, stone floor and shivered involuntarily. Her husband was sound asleep, his gentle snore filling the otherwise quiet room. The air-conditioner was set at a pleasant 25 degrees. Even that seemed intolerable for her rheumatic legs. She groped gingerly on the numbing floor, searching for her slippers. After fumbling around unsuccessfully, she made up her mind and walked across to the bathroom door. All she wished to do was to walk on the sand at dawn and she was not going to let her rheumatism come in the way. As she finished her morning ablutions, a cursory glance at the mirror reminded her that she was no longer that twenty-something cherubic girl from the hills, who wanted to visit the sea. She could no longer stand and admire herself in the mirror, at least, not as long as she used to, and especially, not on a cold bathroom floor without slippers. There were wisps of grey framing her face and the shortest of curls lay on her nape. The wrinkles under her eyes smiled back wistfully, while the wrinkles on her forehead seemed to have temporarily disappeared. Old and weary in body, her mind though was at ease. She was on vacation with the man who had spent forty-five years of his life with her. She was away from her kids, on whom she had spent the better part of her life and the grandkids who had been the cynosure of her eyes for the past fifteen years. She was taking a much needed break by the sea.

She stepped out onto the dimly lit beachfront. The sun rays were breaking through gently as if allowing the moon to have his final few moments hidden from the sun. The moon does not want his place under the sun, unlike us, his glory lies hidden. Almost like the grandmother who stays behind the children, keeping a watch, lagging in pace but never standing still.

The cobbled path, in front of the cottage, was painful enough to make her realize her foolishness. She had decided to go barefoot. As she stood there contemplating on whether to turn back, a squeal caught her ears. It sounded so familiar that she had to return to her earlier path towards the beach. She saw two young boys, about the age of her youngest daughter’s sons, frolicking in the sand. She smiled and then frowned.

What were they doing alone on the beach? Where are their parents?

She looked around and then stopped.

Wait! Haven’t you done enough babysitting already?

She turned her back to the excited voices. Her pace calmed down and her footsteps became more steady as she felt the sea breeze on her skin. She licked her chapped, dry lips to find a slight saltiness.

I am near the sea!

She smiled and left the frolicking kids far behind.

Paradise Bay Resort, Room #3C

She took a deep breath as she raised her arms, the last stretch of her yoga routine. She had promised to join him for a jog around the track, once done. He would have finished his usual ten laps by now. Though she loved jogging with him, something pulled her away from the track in the opposite direction. Not just something, it was the ocean. Yoga on the beach was bliss! She breathed in the salty air, her face upturned towards daybreak. She need to calm herself down. Five years of marriage, blissful companionship. They completed each other’s sentences and complemented each other’s personalities. They had not felt the need for a third being in their life. Her house looked cleaner, neater and emptier than her numerous married friends, but she was happy or so she thought.

Past few family gatherings were wrought with awkward silences, as everyone discussed their kids’ school, eating habits and even poop, and then instinctively turned towards her. She knew there were whispers whenever she entered the room. She knew that whenever her mother smiled at her, the smile was laden with expectations. She was aware of the joy that her husband experienced, when he played with the young kids of his friends. But there was no longing in her heart, only fear.

Her mother had been an excellent mother to her two siblings and her. Would she able to handle it all as well as her? Her mother had managed her career as diligently as she raised her kids and managed her home. Was she up to it?

Even as she stretched and let herself surrender to the calm, the fear remained deep inside her heart.

Will I be a good mother?

A squeal pierced and rode over the buzz of the wind from the sea.

The kids were now playing with the waves. The yoga practitioner held her breath as her pose allowed a full view of the toddler playing dangerously close to the waves.

The writer from 2A spilt her coffee again as she stood up, straining to gauge the distance of the toddler from an incoming wave.

The grandmother from 2D clutched her pounding heart as she hobbled towards the toddler. He is about to be swallowed by the sea. Beads of perspiration ran down her temples.

The yoga practitioner extricated herself from her pose and ran. The writer ran with the coffee mug close to her heart, her t-shirt now stained with coffee. The grandmother was the closest and as she cried out, a pair of hands came from nowhere and swooped the toddler out of danger.

It was the mother! She tickled him, enjoying his gurgling laughter and warned him not to stray away from his brother.

The writer slowed down to a stride and took a long sip from what was left in the coffee mug. Thank heavens! She uttered a silent prayer.

The grandmother strode purposefully towards the mother, she had to give her a piece of her mind.

The yoga practitioner who had reached the spot just after the mother scooped up the toddler, kept looking at the joyous pair of mother and child, foolishly. The mother did not seem afraid at all! She turned towards the sea. Maybe motherhood is like jumping into the sea. Fear may hold you back, but love will keep you afloat.

As beautiful it may seem, the sea could be dangerous, like the unbridled enthusiasm of the youth. The grandmother returned, walking with perfect gait.

The sea is the nourishing mother, spilt coffee notwithstanding. The writer walked towards the beach, the seed of an idea just being sown in her mind.

The home that the Malayalis (re)built

Said to be born when Parsuram’s axe splintered the sea to reveal a land of bounty, Kerala has fascinated the world from time immemorial. The unique traditions, customs, festivals celebrated by this state always attracted a mix of curiosity and disbelief. It was with the same curiosity and disbelief that the world watched Kerala tackle its worst floods in over a century. Having received up to 2.5 times the average rainfall, the Malayali was caught unawares, more so because a Malayali believes that nothing could happen to her home. This home or land, that the Malayalis stay in touch with while nurturing ancestral relations and savouring the cultural treasures, whether through the arts, the food or its cinema, came under threat and they rose en masse to protect it.

The world watched incredulously when the Malayali, known for not working within the boundaries of his state but to have built cities and countries outside of his state, took up the proverbial cudgel to reclaim his land from the fury of nature. To understand what made him do this, both for himself and for others, it is necessary to understand his dreams, his motivations.

Having a home of one’s own, is a dream that an average Indian considers as a life goal, which also drives his financial and professional goals. The interpretation or visualization of this goal can be different for different people; it could be a sea-facing balconied apartment in a high rise, a farmhouse in the middle of an estate, a modest three-bedroom in a city or a palatial bungalow. In the Malayali’s case, this goal or dream has spawned a thriving construction and architectural industry in Kerala. Building a house for themselves in the land where their roots belong is a dream for most Malayalis.

A Malayali is, in essence, a homebound person and dreams of a house with a verandah where he can relax in his arm chair and a garden where he can grow his own vegetables, irrespective of the size of the house that may lie beyond the garden or the verandah.

So imagine his plight when water comes gushing into the same garden and verandah, destroying any plant or animal it finds in its wake and climbs up to whatever level that he has built his house to, his dream home. The home which was built on years of sweat and hard work, invested not in his land, but in a foreign land, working on someone else’s terms and conditions, often away from loved ones, away from all that he loves, ironically, to cherish and protect all that he loves. This home was under threat and you could not expect him to sit around helplessly. Hence, help himself and others he did, working in tandem with saviours who came in uniforms – the armed forces, the NDRF and the other rescue teams. Political leaders, ministers, district officials, the police force worked shoulder to shoulder with the people of the state because they too are people of the same state.

Together, they churned the waters from the overflowing rivers and beautiful, inspiring stories of humanity appeared out of this churning.

It was a churning so divine that the people were drunk on the nectar of humanity, the intoxication driving them to ignore any man-made differences of caste, class, creed or religion.

Everyone working to their best of abilities, lending their support in whatever way they could – fishermen, navigating treacherous waters to save people trapped in the floods, techies applying their skills to build a website for rescue operations, IAS aspirants getting practical training on disaster management, their seniors rolling up their sleeves and leading from the front, students, homemakers, children pitching in with relief materials, religious organizations opening up their doors to operate relief centres, news channels and media making sure that every distress call is handled and no story of courage and selflessness goes unreported.

The incident will go down in history as a story of how people can come together in the most constructive manner in the hour of urgent need.

Isn’t this the dream that every Malayali had? Isn’t this the home that the Malayali wishes to rebuild?

“Maveli nadu vaanidum kaalam, manushyarellarum onnu pole…

Aamodathode vasikkum kaalam, Aapathangarkkum- ottilla thanum…

Kallavum illa chathiyum illa, Ellolam illa polivachanam…”

(Translation)

When Mahabali ruled the land,

Every man was equal,

Everyone lived in harmony,

No one had any troubles,

There were no lies, no trickery,

Not even an iota of empty promises…

A ‘Wonder’ful Read

At the behest of a friend and a fellow book lover, I decided to read the now famous best-seller, ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio. I had heard about the movie before I knew about the book, and was wary of watching it, as I knew that it was the kind that would make me cry. However, I can’t resist a well-written book and I thought that I would be safer from my over-active lachrymal glands, while I am reading a book. Visual stimuli somehow have a quicker impact on my lachrymal secretion. I was wrong though, the book moved me to tears by the end of it and I came out a better person after reading it (hopefully!).

The book, now made famous by its onscreen version starring Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts, is about a child suffering from facial deformity, who decides to end his home-schooling and join a ‘normal’ school inhabited by ‘normal’ kids whose faces look ‘normal’ to the people around. The book takes us through the first year of August ‘Auggie’ Pullman at his school where he learns to be strong, generous, and kind, imparting the same to his classmates.

And this, I feel is the biggest achievement of the writer. She has not only pulled us into the world of Auggie but has given us a three-dimensional view of his world by giving a voice to all the key characters, like his sister, his parents and his friends. We go through the emotions of each person, in their own voice. Reminding one of Kurosowa’s Rashomon and yet without the contradictions, the book makes you ponder, laugh, cry all at once. Auggie has been bestowed with an angst-ridden yet witty demeanour, and tugs at our hearts with every incident.

I would recommend this book for all grown-ups and for kids ten years and up. If empathy is what the world needs from us today, this book teaches us what empathy means in the real word, albeit, through the fictional characters of Auggie and his friends.

A note to parents – While I loved the book, I knew it would be a challenge to make my kid read it (and I so badly wanted her to read it!), as it is far removed from the fantastical worlds of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson that ten year old’s now seem to inhabit.  I sounded so desperate when I repeatedly told her that the book is good, she got annoyed and exclaimed, ‘It seems that you are convincing me to read it, somehow.’  So I had to stop myself, lest she took offence and did not read it at all! However, the moment she read the tagline of the book – ‘You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out!’, she was hooked. And I think I know the reason why –  her generation is strong-willed with a mind of its own, and the tag line appeals to that individualistic trait.  I know that she loved the book because she wouldn’t have finished it otherwise. Not only that, she used a bookmark too, a sure sign that she loved reading it! When I asked her about the book, I got a one-word answer – ‘Nice’!

But one look at her face, and I knew that the book had affected her in more ways than one, I could see a twinkle in her eye that she did not want me to notice 🙂

Go visit Auggie, his family and his friends, it is worth it!

The Fly on the Wall

 

“The village well holds the skeletons, you can see them. You will see a hand with only four fingers. My hand…” a hand reached towards me and I could see as plain as the sky, the hand with only four fingers! I opened my eyes wide and groped around. It was my bed alright, and instead of the lush green field beside which I was standing a minute ago, I was in my bedroom. The morning sun that streamed in through the sheer curtains, made intricate patterns on my blanket. I rolled towards the window, and pulled the curtains aside.

The sun rays lit up the shiny leaves of the Devil’s tree or the Pala tree, as it is locally known. From my window, I could see the tree neatly divided into two halves. The shining half belied the darkness that lay on the other, just like the earth divided into day and night or life into stories, told and untold. Untold stories that had been haunting me in the dark. Was the Pala responsible for the dream that I saw? I doubt. I pulled up my blanket and settled into my favourite cocoon position. Last night was better; better than most nights I have had in Mumbai and the few that I have had in this idyllic village on the southern coast. I had come here with a hope that the sondering would stop. A tiny voice inside my head kept urging me to stay back in the city. It wanted to amass as many stories as possible. It wanted to capture all the voices, give them the personality they deserved and the characterization that they could imbibe. Unfortunately, I could not keep pace. The voices were too many and the stories absurd. Love got entangled in the mesh of desire, aspirations were hauled into the abyss of envy, hatred had not seen the light of the day and yet festered the wounds like a rusty knife. The train rides that I used to enjoy became a trauma. Every face begged to be read, every mind lent itself to be dissected.It was all well, until I visited the museum. I was in search of stories and came across the word ‘sonder’ under one of the paintings in the museum. Such a beautiful word, I had thought. If only I could be the fly on the wall in people’s journeys, I had wished, albeit stupidly. For when I boarded the train back home, I realized how life-changing a wish, it would be.

An old woman sat beside me, her kind eyes shrouded under a grey veil. She had a bag of berries with her and just when I was examining her, wondering what would be the story of her life, she offered me one. I accepted it and bit into the berry. Lo and behold! I was sitting beside her grandson in the one-room tenement that she shared with her son and his family of four. “Aaji, where do you get such delicious berries from?” her grandson asked and I chimed in. “Exactly! They are so lovely!” The old lady smiled at her grandson but did not utter a word. I got up to walk around the tenement. There was not much to see.

A kitchen at the back filled choc a bloc with steel vessels and utensils. Four rolled up beds in the corner of the room. A settee upon which the grandson was sitting. A tv in one corner upon which was the photograph of the family. A son, daughter and two kids. Where was the old woman? “Why aren’t you in this pic?” I asked but she ignored. She was folding her clothes neatly into a bundle. I sat down beside her and rummaged through the box which was open in front of her. A framed photo of Shirdi Sai Baba, a black and white of a young couple in traditional Maharashtrian attire. I picked up the photo and asked her, “Is this you?” She did not even lift her head to acknowledge. That is when I realized that all was not well. Is she not able to hear me? I walked up to the grandson and asked him, “Is your grandma hard of hearing?” He continued eating his berries without paying attention to me. “Boy? Do you hear me?” No response. I walked towards the door and stepped outside. Life was going on as normal. People going about their work.

Just then, a lady entered the house. Nothing surprising about a lady entering a house, but just that, she entered right through me. I stood there with my mouth agape. A man followed and I had not budged an inch from where I stood at the doorway. He had walked through me too. Was I invisible? Was I…? And then it struck me. My wish! I had turned into a fly on the wall! I looked at my hands and then back at the room but now I was back inside the train. I looked at the old woman and wondered if she had realized what had happened. She was telling me that her grandson loves those berries and she is keeping some away for him. “I am sure he would love them.” I said and recollected her grandson’s words. I saw him smile and hug his grandmother.  She was now in the kitchen, making dinner. I could hear the TV blaring out Bollywood songs. And where was I? I was standing at the kitchen door watching her roll out the rotis!

I looked at my hand again and when I lifted my head, I was back in the train again. I was shocked and at the same time elated. I did not know what was happening and yet I was excited. I could now be a part of so many stories, without doing anything to change their course. A mere observer, a spectator, who jots down all that she sees. I could write real stories of real people going about their real life, without them knowing that I am doing so. What an unreal thought!

I visited several homes in the next few days. I started writing chapters on every visit. I just did not know how to tie them all up and yet I was so excited that I continued for almost six months.

Then one day, I met a person who was a friend of one of my characters. Now I knew how my character was touching the life of this friend, what was being spoken about him at his friend’s house and vice versa and things started getting complicated. It seemed that my character was being misunderstood. His friend believed that my character was not being truthful to him and was making him invest in some Ponzi scheme. I knew it was not true. Should I change the story or remain true to what was happening?

I decided to change the story. My character’s friendship was blossoming into a lovely relationship but in the real life, he lost money. His friend lost all his savings too. He had decided to end his life. I stood by as he jumped into the front of a moving train. I could not do anything. I was only the fly on the wall. I should have changed the story but I was in love with their beautiful friendship. I carried on with the friendship in my story, imaginary now, but happy. Then came few other characters for whom I changed the course of my story. Real life was too boring. That is when I started hearing the voices at night. There were too many of them, asking me if I was doing the right thing. Voices clamouring to tell me their real stories, correct the ones that I had written for them. The stories are wrong, they said; figments of my imagination, they reiterated.

I couldn’t write any more. I sat at my table with a pen and sheets of paper. ​Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? The words fluttered and flew in the wind. So, I ran away from the city. I ran and came to this small village where I would not meet anyone, hoping that I do not turn into a fly on the wall again.

notebook writing pencil start
Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

Now, who is this four-fingered character who has come to me with her story? Maybe it is something that needs to be told. Perhaps, she will get justice through my story. I jumped and got dressed to seek the well that she spoke of. I asked around and not many were ready to take me to it, however, the stories were diverse. It piqued my curiosity. I needed to find the right one. Will she visit me again, tonight? I wondered. How could she have died? Did she jump to her death? Or did someone push her? I need to ask her.

But this time, am I a fly on the wall? Or a dead fly in the air? The question begs to be resolved.

Discovering the ‘Maya’ in Angelou’s writings

“We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we do.”

Maya Angelou

Nothing describes the experience of reading Maya Angelou’s autobiographical works more than this quote from her. I read through, or I should say, devoured four out of the seven books in her autobiographical series, in a week. The only fact that stopped me from picking up more of her works, is that, the library that I frequent did not have any more. ‘Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry like Christmas, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes, and A Song Flung Up To Heaven, are the ones that I was lucky enough to get hold of. It is a known fact that her life exemplifies human grit and determination. The story of a single black mother who raises up her son in a prejudiced world, trying to protect, yet make him strong, has captivated readers across continents. However, I was as much enthralled by her writing as with her stories. It is evident that Maya Angelou loved writing and every word was carefully chosen, every sentence lovingly crafted. No paragraph sits lightly in a story and no page can be turned without a minute spent in rumination over the artistry with which the ideas are conveyed. Poignant moments tap you lightly on the shoulder, even as you crack yourself up on funny anecdotes. Lessons in acceptance and tolerance are dealt through subtle humour, and laced with self-deprecation. I felt like I had visited a wise teacher, with whom every hour spent is worth the value of time in gold. I was so afraid that I might commit the heinous crime of not returning the books to the library, that I ran to return each one, as soon as I finished, with a promise to buy myself the complete set as soon as I can.

Now that I have discovered the Maya in her writings, I dare not confine myself to the mundane, rather, I have to learn to make the mundane as magical as I can!

Here is another excerpt from her book – Letter to my Daughter

“You may not control all the events that happen but you can control not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.

Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighbourhood.

Be certain that you do not die without having done something that is wonderful for humanity.”

Fights that make us stronger

On a particularly busy day, as I was listening to my daughter recount her day’s activities and experiences, my ears pricked up when I heard the word ‘stereotype’. Not expecting to hear this from a sixth grader, I was keen to know the context. However, when I knew it, my heart ached. She learnt it in her social science class, but the situation that reinforced her understanding, hurt me as a woman, as a mother. A simplistic example but one that calls for a pondering or two; she happened to throw back the cap of a pen to its owner, as it had fallen down at her feet. It was a neat throw and landed right into the waiting palms of the boy whose pen-cap it was. She heard a comment, ‘Oh! I didn’t know that girls could throw so well.’ The girls who heard this immediately pounced on that opportunity to teach the boy a thing or two and responded with a ‘no stereotyping’ warning. Now imagine, the other side of the coin, a boy unable to throw the pen cap neatly and being taunted for not being able to throw like a boy or what we hear more often – ‘don’t throw like a girl’.

Stereotypes have existed for long, and the ‘female’ stereotype became apparent only when enterprising young women, stepped across the lines and pushed the boundaries, to do something that was atypical. It could be, as I realized from my daughter’s experience, as mundane as giving a neat throw. This was not the first time for her. At the age of eight, she had come to me asking, that if she is interested in playing football, is she more like a boy? Or when she solves math problems faster than anyone in her class and she gets admiring yet, surprisingly, stereotypical comments on she being more boyish rather than girlish. Solving the Rubiks’ cube, discussing IPL matches, watching Sherlock Holmes and tinkering with mechanical DIY kits all seems to have thrown her into the ‘not like a girl’ category. I dealt it in different ways at different times. Sometimes, I would ask her to ignore, sometimes respond indignantly with a ‘ who says so?” At times I have tried to explain, that I have faced such comments too. However, when your daughter comes to you and says that she doesn’t want to go for a Robotics class because she is the only girl there, it breaks your heart, especially, when your girl is good at tinkering and you know that she can excel.

I coaxed and cajoled her nevertheless and she finished a summer course, however, as she grows into her tweens, I see her giving up. She told me that none of her friends are going for Robotics and hence she wouldn’t want to go. I asked her to be friends with the boys there, which was met with some skepticism.

Despite the fact that research proves that women are equally good at STEM, I see girls shy away from these subjects. The World Economic Forum recently quoted a study by Arizona State University that debunks the myth of a male and female brain. The surmise was that women are equally good at science and math but men think they are better.

As for my daughter, I hope that she breaks these barriers, soon enough. Until then, I know I have my task cut-out. I can regale her with my own stories during my professional education and at my job, where I had to fight to get that seat at the table. She will have to fight too and fighting will only make her stronger.