With a blurb talking about a friendship between two girls — one of whom is the daughter of the domestic help of the other — based on football, this book Half the Field is Mine by Swati Sengupta was irresistible for me.
Thirteen-year old Oli has been initiated into football by the same aged Champa, daughter of the domestic help in their house, Arati Mashi. Oli belongs to a household (in the Paruli area of Kolkatta), where gender stereotyping is constantly challenged. Her parents, Ashim Chatterjee and Rini Basu practice equality so much so, that Oli does not have any issues when she plays football with a mixed group of boys and girls in the neighbourhood playground. Her 12-year old brother, Boom has a talent for sewing.
When Arati Mashi, a widow, starts working for Oli’s family, her daughter Champa and Oli get introduced to each other. Soon, they become good friends and soulmates.
Everyday, after school, they study together and play football together. Both of them are strikers in their team and are respected for their game by their gang of friends, Yusuf, Kanishka, Neel, Manirul, Asif, Krish and Deep.
At the threshold of adolescence, the two girls playing a contact sport like football with boys does invite comments and raised eyebrows, which are ignored by the girls.
One day, Neel announces the professional tournament for boys and girls organized by the Jalpaiguri district administration and proposes to enter that tournament. However the girls cannot play with them anymore, as the rules of the tournament does not allow that.
Shocking and cruel words that inflict pain, anger and helplessness in the girls. What can be done about this situation? Oli decides to take the matter into her own hands. She looks up the internet for football coaches and finds about Kuntala Ghosh Dastidar, former captain of Indian national women’s football team. She goes to meet her and with her mother’s help arranges for the two girls to train under the coach.
Meanwhile, Champa has her own drastic plan of action. She decides to question the Jalpaiguri District Magistrate about this gender discrimination. She goes on a trip to Jalpaiguri without the knowledge of the others.
When Champa is not to be found, tense moments follow. How do Arati Mashi and Oli’s family manage to trace her?
Does Champa manage to reach Jalpaiguri on her own? Does she meet the DM? How does she escape the touts in the trains scouring for young girls?
Read the compelling tale to find out!
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- Firstly, kudos to the author for a refreshing plot. A tale for children centered around sports, especially mixed football, is incredibly original.
- Swati Sengupta has analysed equality from various angles – equality between the sexes and equality amongst children of different social strata. Is friendship possible between two children from different social strata? What are the dynamics of girls playing football with boys, and being better players than the boys?
- The title! At a subconscious level, the title appeals to me – it is not asking (for equality), it is taking it.
- The cover page is very attractive with two girls and a boy in their jerseys chasing a football in the ground.
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- Though I enjoy seeing characters breaking stereotypes, sometimes authors get pressurized (constrained) so much that counter stereotypes emerge. It is appreciable that Oli plays football, but is it mandatory that all her family members are reverse stereotypes?
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- Why don’t I find many sports-centered stories for children?
Half the Field is Mine: Deservedly!