The Diary Of An Indian School Girl by Nandini Nayar is a series of stories about Apoorva Joshi, a good-natured, fat, misfit, who wins over the hearts of many people who are initially inclined to make fun of her or dislike her. Her super powers are her ability to laugh at herself, and to recognise her short comings and failings and work on them. Her source of strength her staunch best friend, Avinash, who believes in her and makes her laugh.
- When I first started the books, I had misgivings about reading a series of diary entries. But Nandini beautifully weaves a story into the diary entries.
- Some kids may be intimidated by novels or long form reading. For them, this type of books is a good place to begin. The writing style makes reading easy, in the same way that it is easier to get the essence of something from crisp, to the point notes, than reading a text book.
- There are also lots of jokes to draw in reluctant readers. Example
Wow! You are so excited to see me!
- Even those who already like reading can enjoy these stories, because they have an engaging plot and good character development.
- The illustrations by Lavanya Karthik are cute and funny, and suit the stories well.
Apoorva’s fat diary
In the first book in the series, Apoorva’s mother (Amma), wants her to maintain a diary so as to improve her writing. Amma is persuasive and relentless and Apoorva is forced to give in, but she manages to strike a bargain. She tells Amma that she will write in her diary about the 12 best meals she eats in the next few days, thus ensuring she gets some tasty food out of this annoying project.
But Apoorva’s diary entries are not just about food. We find out how Apoorva is teased by her classmates and older kids for being fat. To add to her troubles, she gets spectacles, making her a conspicuous odd ball.
Not only do the spectacles improve Apoorva’s vision, they also allow her to read people better. She gets better at understanding people and empathizing with them. The people in turn respond to her empathy and some former adversaries grow fond of her.
But seeing clearly is not always pleasant. Apoorva is shocked to see the obvious cruelty in the expression of a member in her family circle. Does no one else see it? Why do they make him feel welcome? Can’t they see he may be dangerous?
Could Apoorva be right? Is this person really cruel?
+ + +
- The story emphasises the importance of looking beneath the surface, into the true nature of people.
- The story suggests ways to get along with people. People often put on a front to hide insecurities; and a little praise or laughter can go a long way in making them warm up to you.
- It shows that, although most people are more or less nice, and that you just need to understand them to find the good in them, evil too is a reality so one must not trust too quickly or easily.
. . .
- This story is good to get the conversation started on sexual assault. There is nothing explicit or gory in the book but it brings up the issue quite forcefully.
An outsider’s perspective.
Apoorva’s teacher divides up the class into groups to discuss lessons from their text book. But there is an interesting rider – the groups are secret. No one knows who the group members are. The discussions are online with nicknames that the kids are free to choose. Apoorva is made leader of her group. She enjoys the online discussions but gets obsessed with finding out the identities of group members. Will she succeed?
+ + +
- Apoorva gets so wrapped up with her online group members and their discussions, that she starts neglecting her friends and family and starts living in a daze. The story, possibly, gently hints at the addictive dangers of social media. It also highlights how harbouring secrets can poison close relationships.
- The story highlights how using a pseudonym can make it easier for people to be forthright, voice their opinions, to accept their shortcomings and learn to overcome them.
- During the online discussions, the members share some tantalising insights about some well known stories and poems that can get kids curious enough to look them up and read them. The discussions also mention some well known authors and poets kids are likely to want to know more about.
. . .
- Although Apoorva beautifully demonstrates the role of an encouraging group leader, I would have liked to see some more active participation from her, showing that leading and participating do not have to be mutually exclusive.
So near and yet so far!
A copy of the books was given me by the publishers, DC books Mango in return for an honest review. Thanks DC Books Mango.
|Title||The Diary Of An Indian School Girl Vol. 1 & 2
|Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s)||Lavanya Karthik, Nandini Nayar|
|Publisher||DC Books Mango|