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Kausalya Saptharishi

Edited by Deeya Nayar  and Radhika Menon
Tulika Publishers, Chennai, 2015, pp. 144, Rs. 225.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

It’s not very often that one gets access to the rarefied world of boys who are on the cusp of becoming men. This is a precarious world they occupy, often populated with insensitive adults, jeering peers, and unfathomable fears—some imaginary, some unfounded—that threatens to come all undone at the slightest provocation or insult. Thankfully, Being Boys is a refreshing revelation of the male adolescent psyche that doesn’t resort to stereotypes of what boys should be like or aspire to become. The diverse pieces contained in this anthology are about boys who find themselves in that most vulnerable and trying phase of growing up angst—the pre-teen and teen years, resolutely leading up to adulthood. Each story or essay is an eye-opener and approaches this subject with a veritable mixture of wit, humour, intelligence, empathy, courage and wisdom. In Ranjit Lal’s ‘General Apron Strings’, the diffident fourteen-yearold Aditya shows that boys need not always be ‘hard-wired’ to follow the beaten path that’s expected of their gender. The hilarious ‘Rave On’ by Bharat Shekhar has even the formidable Ravana grappling with teenage issues—to the power ten! Swaminathan, in R.K. Narayan’s ‘A Hero’ overcomes one of his greatest fears, an emotion boys are not supposed to admit to. In ‘Rinku’s Hair’ by Amandeep Sandhu, a young Sikh boy is desperate to chop off his long locks in order to blend in with the other boys in his class. ‘On Founder’s Day’ is Vikram Seth’s brutally honest account of his boarding school days, undoubtedly mirroring the sentiments of scores of schoolboys who go through unspoken rituals and trauma, silently taking it all in ‘like a man’. When I set out to read this book, I was intrigued by the mix of authors whose contributions figure in this anthology—more so women writers giving a peek into boys’ rites of passage into manhood. This is why I was pleasantly surprised to see Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran nailing it in ‘Destroy, Boy’, an adolescent’s boy’s rib-tickling account of a stubborn pimple that refuses to vanish. In ‘Ugly Boy’, Devika Cariapa dips her pen into history to show that even the mighty Emperor Ashoka was once a vulnerable, insecure child. The canvas is wide and multi-layered in Being Boys. The anthology is a commendable effort by Tulika Publishers to begin a conversation ...

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