Do you force your child to hug relatives and get anxious when they don’t? Well, then this post is for you.
As a child, I was often forced to endure hugs and cheek pulling by relatives, especially during festivals. “Come on, give auntie a kiss” or “Look uncle has got you a gift, give him a hug and say thank you”. I was also blatantly labelled rude and shy if I protested. It was a good touch, and by known family friends and relatives, so I was supposed to accept it. How could I not like it?
That’s exactly what this new book “The Strange Case of Nayantara” is about. The author brilliantly weaves a simple yet funny story on the importance of “touch with consent”, while subtly teaching them to be the boss on their own bodies.
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Why this book a must-buy for parents?
There is a widespread belief in the Indian culture that children love to be hugged, kissed, tickled, have their cheeks pinched, hair ruffled, or even thrown up in the air. Protest by children often falls on deaf ears. But, it is imperative that we parents should teach our children not to endure unwanted touch, even when intentions are friendly and innocent.
Experts are now challenging this misconception of consent being a topic only for teenagers. They believe, it should be approached much earlier in children, so as to prevent unwanted touch at any age. Children should be made aware of the fact that their body belongs to them and they are in charge of it.
And what best way to explain it than through a comical story.
So, what is the story about?
Nayantara, the protagonist, is a sweet and clever girl, who lives with her parents Roopmal and Roopaben in a small town of Bharuch in Gujarat. Like all other children, she goes to school, plays with friends and celebrates festivals like Navratri and Garba. She adores her family and enjoys spending time with her neighbours. However, Nayantara squirms with discomfort every time some tries to hug, hold, tickle or kiss her without her consent. She does not like it one bit.
Then suddenly, all hell breaks loose in the village. Mysterious curses started befalling on the villagers. These are the very relatives, neighbours and friends who Nayantara would try to stop and show her displeasure to, but they would never listen. The villagers soon get petrified and start blaming her.
Fed up and apprehensive with the accusations, Roopmal eventually takes his daughter to the village mystic, Silly Baba. He was determined to help his daughter. So, will this “cool” Silly Baba, in his stylish glares and flamboyant dhotis, solve Nayantara’s problem? Will adults ever understand “touch by consent” in children?
Vaishali Shroff (the prolific author), has hit the nail right on its head. She has written this book so beautifully and adroitly that at no point does it come across as boring or overwhelming to a child. Being an award-winning author and an aficionado at the writing stories for children, Vaishali has daringly traversed a subject, not attempted by many Indian authors. She even ends the book with interviews and statements from many children. Soumya Majumdar, the illustrator, has further brought to life Nayantara and the village folk with her bold and vivid illustrations.
My daughter’s review :
We read the book together and later talked about it. She felt it was a must-read for all adults. She feels it will give them a glimpse into the minds of little children and not be ignorant for their little voices.
So, go ahead and definitely get this book for your bookshelf. Read it at regular intervals, to yourself and then to your little ones. Empower them with body autonomy. In the words of the author herself…The book is dedicated to all children who need the strength to speak up for their rights and for all the grown-ups who need to listen.