After a breezy read of “Girls to the Rescue” ( a satirical take on Fairy tales), I took this book, “Being Boys”, assuming that this book is going to present the boys’ view of the problem. I expected a funny book, a light read. But what I read was totally unexpected from what I had perceived. It is one of the heavyweight books on boys.
Being Boys is a wonderful collection of nineteen short stories written by various authors. A few are autobiographical. Each story uncovers a hidden dimension of being a boy. A few stories uncover a dimension which we would not be so comfortable to discuss in public. Boys of multiple hues – boys interested in cooking, boys interested in dressing up in frocks, boys bullied, boys who want to cry, boys compelled to be like “a man” and understanding it differently and boys who want advice, but hesitant to take it as it is not a “man thing” are some of the protagonists in these stories.
There is a boy in every story. And in most stories there is a boy whom we haven’t met, rather we haven’t met in the way narrated in the story. Meet the offbeat boys – Aditya, Samar, Guthli, Fish with red suit, the enlightened boys – Rinku, Abu, Ashoka, Kerrah Tuck, Vikram Seth, the funny boys – Tammy with the pimple, Swaminathan, Rave On, the mature boys – Magan, Jonathan, Siddalingaiah, Joseph, and the disheartened boys – Blue Jays, Kuttan, Kalmu and Karma.
Being Boys must be read by every parent, to know why boys are boys, and predominantly, why some boys are not “boys”, and what is being boys, and sometimes what we see as being boys is not being boys.
Reading this book was a revelation for me, about boys. I am glad that I read this book.
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- We create Kalmus and Karmas; we steal their innocence; when they join hands with the dreaded forces, we fear them, we detest them. There are no born terrorists – they are made. The story of Kalmu and Karma reiterates that, one more time! (Disheartened boys!)
- Abu, good at drawing, was intimidated, because he was too soft and tender. Abu’s reaction to that ridicule is appalling – a reflection on what our younger generations thinks of as “being man”! In the story to bring Abu back on track his grandpa narrates what he lost because of heeding to the society on being “the so called man”. That enlightens Abu!
- Aditya, an offbeat boy who enjoys cooking, is teased by his own friends. He is later appeased and asked to cook by the same group by a twist (of fate)! Cooking is a life skill not related to any specific gender. Expecting a person of a specific gender in the family to cook is like expecting someone to brush your teeth. It can be a help, but not always! In my view, whoever likes to or has to eat, should learn to cook.
- One child who wanted to wear his sister’s clothes (her sister’s clothes in the book). Of all the things that stand out in the story, the author’s usage of his/her depending on who speaks about the child is novel! Guthli the offbeat child!
- Red suit and Blue Jays are crisp notes on the problem of being offbeat and not following the crowd. The author gives hope and despair just in ten lines of Blue Jays! Disheartened Blue Jays!
- The great pimple worries of Mayil’s brother – a humorous narration. Swaminathan in “A Hero” portrays how boys dread to sleep alone 🙂 . Joseph the snake buster and Rinku’s hair are gentle reminders on peer acceptance and peer bullying anomalies. These light, touchy and funny stories put a magnifying lens into the lives of the boys to see what matters to them at a specific stage in life.
- The biography excerpts: Siddalingaiah is a diligent record on how last benchers were compelled to be last benchers, until there was an external force that changes their direction. Samar has put it precisely that the Indian families need the unfamiliar. His account about being a boy describes two dimensions of growing — a mom who groomed the children in house-keeping and a dad who was a cop. Samar hammers down the fact that a boy who knows to cook and loves to cook need not be offbeat. The annual day speech of Vikram Seth is bold and forthright. I read it twice, and am sure boarding school boys would love to read it many more times. One point that made me read it again is the author differing from the commonly accepted rhetoric “school days are best”! Jonathan August Martin, a foot ball player, who did not want to put up with the stereotype of “being a man”, revolts and succeeds. The trials that Jonathan had to undergo before seeking his mom’s advice depicts the pathetic state of affairs in the world we live in. As a matter of fact, the grass is not greener on any side! The Matured and Enlightened boys!
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- In the stories Kalmu and Karma, Kerrah Tuck, Abu – how the protagonists were forced to “be masculine”, disturbs! We, as a society, do not understand that our apparently simple questions and beliefs create Abus. “Don’t cry like a girl”, “Girls grow hair “Boys are strong” “You may hurt if you play with boys” are few from our daily adages that ought to change.
- It was interesting to note that Ashoka was not a stereotypic handsome prince as one generally imagines!
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- Age group – I think it is too heavy for a 10 year old.
- The cover page is very light, compared to the complexity of the matter inside.
A must read in a patriarchal society!
|Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s)||Amandeep Sandhu, Bharat Shekhar, Devashish Mahija, Devika Cariapa, Jerry Pinto, Kanak Shashi, M.R Renukumar, Manjula Padmanabhan, N Sudarshan, Niveditha Subramaniam, R.K Narayan, Raj Shekhar, Ranjit Lal, Rinchin, Samar Halarnkar, Siddalingiah, Sowmya Rajendran, Suniti Namjoshi, Vikram Seth|