The reason I picked this book for the school library, is because of a former student who plays in the Tamil Nadu, U21 woman’s cricket team. While the student is not in school anymore, her sibling is and all the children know about her. I thought this books would be a wonderful addition to our shelf...a fictional role model, complimenting a real one.
The reason I picked it up to read myself, was that it came highly recommended from the children. It rarely stayed on the shelf, and every child who had read it, would say..”This is a great book, have you read it Aunty?”
So, I just had to. And how glad I am, that I did!
I guess the colourful cover and the detailed blurb caught their attention. The fact that it was set in Chennai, and irrespective of whether a Chennaite or not, this book is very Indian. Although I grew up Catholic from a very Catholic area, school and college in Bombay...I still could identify with this book set in a very Hindu area, characters and traditions.
Don't you just love how books help us see the universality of our experiences?
This is a story that will resonate with most children.
Very simply, 11 year old Loki - Lokanayaki Shanmugam, wants to play for her local cricket team. She played with them in all their U9 matches, until suddenly at 11, everyone noticed that she is a girl and declared that it was inappropriate for a girl to play with the boys. But cricket is the only thing that Loki wants to do. So she takes out a petition to allow her to play on the team, a petition that soon takes on a life of its own.
Although on the surface, Loki Takes Guard, seems like a light, frothy, fun read, author Menaka Raman deftly strikes with her pen, addressing a host of social issues.
These are simple, real, everyday situations and through Loki, she nudges us to question what we accept as ‘normal’, just part of what we’ve always known and follow.
From the appropriate behaviour for a ‘girl', to the inappropriate nosiness of the 'grown-ups'.
From the trials of puberty with it's first period and bra experiences, to the stark untruths behind the white shorts wearing girls in the sanitary napkin advertisements.
From questioning our ideas of ‘equality’ and unconscious manner in which we sideline those who are different from us economically, to the stigma faced by independent thinking, divorcees.
From the pressure of entrance exams to the frivolous viral ‘influencer’ promotions.
From the unreal beauty standards enforced unconsciously, to the smokescreen of ‘tradition’ used to perpetuate patriarchy.
From the traditional role of he housewife, to the quiet, unnoticed impactful actions of the traditional paati.
From cricket matches to crazy festival days.
From poojas to soap operas.
From friends and family, and the joy, the freedom and the strictures that come along with them.
Menaka Raman seems to just chuck these in mixed with humour, but they hit like a googly.
I loved the author's dual approach to feminism. She highlights the modern feminist with their 'in your face' approach seen through the characters of Loki and Malati Akka. But it was her description of @_poetic_paati, left me with deep appreciation and respect of a traditional, seemingly subservient woman, shackled by the diktats of her time, yet making a mark with quiet feminism.
Underlying all this, is the simple story of one girl chasing her dream.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for children 9+ and I am so looking forward to chatting about it with my students.