E-book Evaluation | The Sahils Of Queer Road

Book Review | The Sahils Of Queer Street

Reva and Prisha

Creator:  Shals Mahajan

Illustrated by: Lavanya Karthik

Writer: ‎Scholastic India

Paperback: ‎88 pages

Runu Yusuf is a school professor. Pritam Singh is a author of detective fiction. These girls are deeply in love with one another. They’ve constructed a heat cocoon of security and luxury during which they’re elevating their twin daughters—Reva and Prisha. These women have discovered a artistic answer to the obvious quandary of how one can tackle two moms. Runu is known as Momma, whereas Pritam is known as Amma. It’s that easy.

Runu and Pritam determined to eliminate the surnames that mark them as Muslim and Hindu respectively. They name themselves and their daughters “the Sahil household”. In addition they have a household music, which begins with these strains: “A household’s a household/regardless of how mad!/A household’s a household/who hugs you while you’re unhappy!” If you’re questioning why you haven’t heard of the 4 Sahils earlier than, it’s as a result of they exist solely within the fictional universe of an Indian youngsters’s guide, and never in flesh and blood.

India’s Supreme Courtroom decriminalised queer intimacies in 2018, however the studying down of Part 377 of the Indian Penal Code has not translated into marriage equality in our nation. How lengthy this improvement may take is a query that is still to be answered. In the intervening time, Scholastic India—a writer of youngsters’s books—has gone forward and launched a brand new guide about two moms and their twin daughters.

Titled Reva and Prisha, it’s written by Shals Mahajan, whose biography is an enchanting story in itself. They describe themselves as “a author, layabout, half feline, considerably hooman, gender queer fellow who lives in Bombay, however primarily of their head”. They’ve been related to the Discussion board Towards Oppression of Ladies and Stree Sangam—renamed as Lesbians And Bisexuals In Motion (LABIA). They’ve additionally co-authored the long-lasting quantity No Outlaws within the Gender Galaxy (2015) with Chayanika Shah, Raj Service provider and Smriti Nevatia.

What does a typical night within the Sahil household residence appear like? Right here’s an outline from the guide: “Meal time was chatting time. Each Amma and Momma favored to share all about their day and Prisha and Reva did the identical. It was full consideration time. In fact, a lot of the consideration was on the meals.”

How may Mahajan’s new guide Reva and Prisha contribute to conversations round authorized recognition of same-sex marriage in India? On November 30, the Delhi Excessive Courtroom could have its closing listening to on all petitions in search of authorized recognition of same-sex marriages. The discourse round same-sex marriages has largely centered on queer companionship, on guaranteeing that same-sex {couples} are usually not topic to prejudice and discrimination. The query of elevating youngsters has not come up for dialogue but.

Sushmita Chatterjee, Senior Editor at Scholastic India, says, “Reva and Prisha focuses on the concept that a household might be composed of anybody, and isn’t at all times a father-mother-child unit. The endearing characters and on a regular basis adventures of the twins with their moms exhibits that love for oneself and one another is crucial facet of ‘household’.” She believes this guide may “present a place to begin to conversations round same-sex relationships and households in India”.

The women have additionally made up their very own origin story. They consider they as soon as existed as little fish floating within the bellies of their moms, who determined to allow them to be and didn’t make fish curry out of them. Apparently, this kindness made Reva and Prisha realise that Runu and Pritam could be good to have as moms.

The queer couple is each amused and brought aback after they hear this rationalization, however they don’t bounce in to right their daughters. Their parenting type leaves ample house for curiosity. Runu and Pritam need to see the world by means of their youngsters’s eyes. They don’t discuss all the way down to their daughters. They ask questions to assist Reva and Prisha articulate their ideas and share their considerations extra clearly.

Mahajan says, “I don’t work together a lot with youngsters however for me, the entire query of how adults and kids work together with one another is a really attention-grabbing one. Household will not be a conservative, authoritarian, patriarchal house of management in my guide. There’s an ease of relationship between the adults and the kids.” One of many youngsters in Reva and Prisha’s college struggles to grasp how they are often concurrently Hindu and Muslim, as a result of his father insists that an individual might be both, not each.

Mahajan says, “These queer girls are attempting to create a unique sort of ethos from what’s typical and normative. Everybody has the fitting to create and be a part of households and really feel beloved. We create bonds of intimacy in a wide range of methods. What issues is the character of the connection, somewhat than who’s in it. Similar-sex marriage is just one of some ways during which queer folks select to reside collectively.”

Reva and Prisha comes after the success of Mahajan’s earlier books Timmi and Tangles (2013) and Timmi and Rizu (2017), which had been additionally written for kids.

They are saying, “I don’t plan my books. Typically, a personality simply comes into my head and stays there. I’m a really sluggish author. A few years go by between one guide and the subsequent. Books gestate over an extended time period, and so they grow to be what they’re.”

Reva and Prisha go to a faculty the place academics are well-informed and open about queer relationships. Mahajan has tried to create the sort of world they wish to see, as a substitute of utilizing the guide solely to mirror on the inequities queer folks presently face in Indian society. These characters got here into Mahajan’s head “absolutely fashioned”, and have stayed with them for 3 years, till the guide’s publication this 12 months. It was meant to be revealed in 2020 however acquired delayed by the pandemic.

The illustrations by Lavanya Karthik add depth and nuance to the guide. One in all her most poignant pictures exhibits Pritam seated on a bean bag in Reva and Prisha’s classroom, surrounded by affectionate youngsters who’re having fun with their presence and taking part in with them. This picture is a refined assertion towards the dangerous narrative of queer adults as predators who have to be refrained from youngsters.

Karthik says, “I actually haven’t seen grownup queer illustration in Indian youngsters’s literature. The characters I drew had been drastically influenced by Shals’ personal visualisation of them, all the way down to their hair, clothes and mannerisms. It was enjoyable watching them evolve, first in my head after which on web page.” She labored intently with Mahajan and Chatterjee, from the preliminary sketches to the ultimate illustrations.

She says, “The most important problem was getting the grownup characters proper. Additionally, the tales principally function simply 4 fundamental characters and are predominantly set indoors, so it was a problem to suppose up illustrations that will keep away from monotony and retain a way of enjoyable.” Mahajan says, “I wished Reva and Prisha to be illustrated by somebody who would painting Runu and Pritam as people and never as stereotypes.”

Mahajan likes to work intensively with illustrators, and is blissful their illustrator was in a position to seize all of the complexities they wished to deal with. They are saying, “In numerous Indian youngsters’s books, the characters are too light-skinned. They appear pink somewhat than numerous shades of darkish. Lavanya and I spent numerous time discussing the illustrations. Sushmita too was very concerned within the technique of getting apt illustrations for the textual content.

Reva and Prisha will not be a guide that’s making an attempt to evangelise. It’s a fun-filled assortment of tales a couple of household that discusses consuming caterpillar pee, consuming books, and making pasta in chocolate sauce. Mahajan says, “I’ve bitten books as a baby however by no means eaten them. They odor so good! Even right now, once I purchase a guide that’s absolutely colour-printed, I like to stay my nostril, breathe it in, and odor what it’s like. I additionally love the textures of various sorts of books primarily based on the standard of paper they use.”

Mahajan has not mentioned queer politics in India in Reva and Prisha as a result of it’s meant to be a guide for kids. They’ve saved the tone considerate however light-hearted. This guide presents slices of on a regular basis life in a queer family. It isn’t meant to be a container for all doable questions on identification and illustration, making the guide accessible. Even the progressive queer flag used within the guide is quietly positioned in a fish bowl. The sensation of satisfaction right here is safe however understated.

Mahajan says, “Given the harshness we see in our world, we reside with numerous frustration and anger and despair. As I get older, I realise how necessary it’s to nurture love and connectedness with people who find themselves like-minded, to have a way of humour in your activism, and to know what you need the world to maneuver in direction of somewhat than solely preventing what you dislike in it. Whether or not it’s my politics as a queer feminist activist or my writing as an writer of youngsters’s books, what stays the identical is the worldview—a predilection in direction of gentleness, in direction of openness.”

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