Nargis Kapasi’s latest poem speaks of gender non-conformity
Each quatrain of this poem, in the brightly-illustrated book, contains a different hue of hope for the ones who feel different, and the ones who find it difficult to fit in
Tina, despite being frowned upon, wishes for trucks and motorbikes every Christmas. Salman, who spends the day flying kites with his brothers, likes to paint his nails alone in the dark. Sarah is caught in an everyday dilemma of having to choose between pants or a skirt. Cyrus enjoys carrying around his favourite dolls to play with friends. Manu, who has been taking ballet lessons, loves prancing around. Sometimes we all feel different. And it’s quite alright to be so, comforts Nargis Kapasi through her debut work How You Feel Inside: A Poem About Gender Identity.
Each quatrain of this poem, in the brightly-illustrated book, contains a different hue of hope for the ones who feel different, the ones who find it difficult to fit in, and the ones who want to mould their own identity. “Gender is not something you are born with, it is ‘how you feel inside’. The book narrates the stories of five children on a common journey to discovering their gender. It speaks of gender non-conformity and about making one’s own place in a strictly binary system,” says city-based author Nargis.
Nargis has employed her flair for design to bring out thoughtfully-sketched characters that fill the pages with courage and confidence. “Poetry and painting have been my language of expression since childhood. I feel it works wonders in taking sensitive topics to children as it’s not direct and leaves room for interpretation. I want books to kindle the curious minds of children because any idea introduced to them between the age of one to five stays with them for a lifetime. We need to give them the right conditioning in the beginning,” she suggests.
Small steps, big difference
A former primary school teacher, Nargis trained to be an AMI Montessori teacher during the pandemic and dreams of opening a play school soon. She strongly relies on storytelling and design to communicate, educate and bring about change among children, parents, and young adults. “While there are a handful of promising children’s books on inclusivity, I couldn’t find many when I wanted one for my six-year-old daughter. One of the reasons that prompted me to pen a book was when my daughter and I came across a trans woman while we were outside. She asked me questions after the incident and I realised it was the right time to have a conversation with her about identity. I’m glad I wrote the book and I’ve been receiving great responses,” exclaims Nargis.
She’s elated that many young parents are opening up to the idea of introducing their kids to meaningful books. “Parents want kids to be aware of many things like religion, race...and more. There’s a lot of scope for such content even among the older generation who appreciate it. They want their children to be more empathetic and aware of the world. That said, there’s only so much you can experiment with children. Every story has a backdrop, a problem, and a solution. In the case of gender identity, non-acceptance is the biggest problem,” she explains.
The world needs more stories of kindness and acceptance, she reiterates. “It’s surprising to see how little we as a society know about something as basic as gender. I would be glad if this book can bring some difference in changing mindsets. I will also be writing more books. My daughter has been a big support and inspiration. She often tells me that she’s proud of me. I want my work to live up to that,” sums up Nargis.