Though as a generation we have managed to challenge certain gender stereotypes, we have still not been able completely break free from the same. Urban parents have been a lot more encouraging of girls breaking into male bastions, but have we been supportive of our boys in equal measure? Haven’t we ever poked fun at our boys as being girl-like for shedding a tear or two? Or haven’t we ever goaded them into being “a man” and not a sissy? So as parents we do knowingly or unknowingly seek to perpetuate gender bias.
In the same way, boys or men are often excused from violent or disorderly behaviour; after all, “boys will be boys”! So what does it mean to be boys in this era?
The book that we picked out for this month couldn’t have come at a better time as it seeks to break the stereotypes about boys and their so called manly world! Tulika publication’s “Being Boys “, edited by Deepa Nayar and Radhika Menon is one compilation that promises to be off the beaten path. It has contributors from various walks of life, from famous authors and journalists to professors and social workers.
Though supposed to be for children aged ten plus, some of the works in the compilation make for ideal read-aloud stories for children aged six and above, and many others serve as a guide for pre-teens and teens during their stressful phase of adolescence. This is a collection of coming of age stories, autobiographical anecdotes, essays, inspirational non-fictional write-ups, poems, diary jottings, speech excerpts, etc., mainly featuring young boys as protagonists from different backgrounds and different time periods. These boys grapple with different issues in life-issues of identity, poverty, ambition, courage, passion, perseverance, peer pressure, being bullied and being the bully, an understanding of fair and unfair, and a realization of what truly matters in life.
What’s unique about this compilation is that all the works touch upon the sensitive side of boyhood and seek to confront issues that most often get pushed under the carpet as being unmanly. Whether it’s how to ward off jokes about his long hair as a young Sikh boy in “Rinku’s Hair ” by Amandeep Sandhu, or Swami’s fear of darkness unexpectedly making him a hero in R K Narayan‘s “Hero“, or choosing the so called girlie interests or fitting into womanly roles in Ranjit Lal’s “General Apron Strings” and Samar Harlankar’s “Focke-Wulfs and Fish Curry” or the hilarious account of the pimple-ridden truths of growing up in Niveditha Subramaniam’s and Sowmya Rajendran’s “Destroy, Boy“, or a real life story of how an ace footballer tackled bullying in N Sudarshan‘s “Man-up- It’s Football”, or delving into the mind of a bully in Jerry Pinto‘s “Kerrrrah-tuck“, or the story of transformation of Chandashoka (Ashoka the fierce) into Ashoka, the Beloved of Gods in Devika Cariapa’s “The Ugly Boy” or Vikram Seth’s riveting speech on the occasion of “Founder’s Day” addressing the boys of Doon school – all stories and writings throw light on what it truly means to be boys and what actually happens when boy meets world!