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Nita Berry

By Kate Darnton
Young Zubaan, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 202, Rs. 250.00


The Misfits by Kate Darnton is the heartwarming story of eleven-year-old Chloe and her new life in New Delhi.  Exotic and enigmatic, yet crowded and dirty, India is indeed a daunting challenge for the American family that has moved in here. ‘Everything in Delhi was the opposite of Boston—the heat and the smells and the noises and the colours and the tastes. Everything was totally different.’ Chloe is homesick and misses her old friends in Boston. Still, she desperately wants to be a part of the crowd at her new school. One morning she even attempts colouring her blonde hair with a permanent black marker in front of her bathroom mirror. After all, ‘every single one of the other ninety-eight kids in Class Five at Premium Academy has black hair. Every single one of them…’ she explains to her exasperated mother. A cross section of youngsters from Indian society study at the Premium Academy—from ‘cool’ kids and super rich brats like Anvi Saxena, whose father is a ‘Delhi Tycoon’ and who holidays all over the world, to the EWS (Economically Weaker Section) students like Lakshmi and Meher who are as much misfits in school as Chloe. These are veritably the pariahs of Indian society. Lakshmi’s father is the new schoolmali and she sticks out in class like a sore thumb because everything about her is different—from her skinny frame, shabby uniform, oily plaits to her broken English. The two misfits, Chloe and Lakshmi soon bond over a common love for plants, animals, song and dance, despite their vast differences—and unexpectedly, Chloe finds a real friend.  The Misfits is probably the first children’s book to have been written against the background of the RTE or the Right to Education Act—an important piece of legislation passed by the Parliament of India in 2009 which made education a compulsory and fundamental right for all children between 6 and 14 years of age. For the purposes of this Act, a school must admit at least 25% of the strength of each class, children belonging to the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups in the neighbourhood, and provide free and compulsory education till the completion of elementary education. The book reflects far-reaching social implications of this historic but tricky Act, often exposing a raw nerve, as classrooms today accommodate children coming from all social strata. As rich-brat Anvi explains to her confused American ...

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