Children’s author Paro Anand speaks about gender sensitisation for kids and her upcoming books
Paro Anand, the Bal Sahitya Puraskar winner, has written extensively for young readers and teenagers. The World Record Holder, who helped 3,000 children create the World’s Longest Newspaper, was in town for the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, when Indulge caught up with her. Excerpts…
What are your upcoming projects? When can we expect these?
There are three books I’m currently working on — a novel called Nomad’s Land, A Very Naughty Dragon and A Day with Gandhi, seen from the eyes of a very angsty and bored teenager. While the first story is about displacement and connecting to your roots, the second is a sequel in a book series, and I’m collaborating with a nine-year-old girl in Delhi for this one. All three are underway, and I’m working very hard to finish them fast.
What are your views on gender sensitisation in children?
It is a very important subject today. More than just men or women, it is about the 22 other genders which we need to be sensitised about. It’s also hugely topical in the light of the #MeToo movement, and the questions about what is okay and what is not.
Do you think the #MeToo movement will bring some change?
It has to. I know there is a lot of arguing over it, that there is a possibility of people misusing it, but it’s a start, and there has to be some noise around it.
What inspires you to write? How do you get your ideas?
I work with a lot of young people, and their concerns and ideas motivate me. The realisation is that kids these days are already talking about issues for which they are too young. In Bangalore, eight to nine-year-old children were talking about the #MeToo movement and kids as young as nursery school students are aware of fad diets and body issues. According to them, there should be a #MeToo movement about bullying too.
How would you sensitise children about gender, and also reinstate equality, at the kindergarten level?
In my book, The Other, there is a story about rape, which is narrated from different points of view, and includes the mother of the rapist thinking aloud about who wants to confront her son, about what made him commit such an act. I got the answer to that question much later, from a young girl in Chandigarh. She said that the small things that we do unconsciously, whether it is the first hot roti or a bigger piece of chicken, which the boy always gets — makes all the difference. I think that’s the answer. It’s so ingrained in our hearts and minds that we really need new grains to soak into our own hearts and minds, and change the way we brings up boys and girls.