Wonder, Queerness and the Mind @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 6)


Pratibha discovered a book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio(based on a true story), much before it became the famous book that inspired the Choose Kind movement and a movie starring Julia Roberts. The story is moving, about a ten-year-old boy called August who has a facial difference. When he joins a new school, he has no friends but he is used to being ignored and gradually things change. The message in the story is given the choice of being right or kind, choose kindness. Although the story is about August, the perspective also shifts to other characters around him and on the whole, a great deal of empathy makes this book work.  Pratibha wished that she had read this book when she was much younger as children’s experiences are very different and they can be extremely cruel, yet they can also easily forget.

Abhaya mentioned the Pickle Yolk Imprint, a children’s books imprint, which deals with difficult issues that children face like death, loss, being transgender, and being embarrassed. Children’s literature is thriving in India as never before.

Priya is a biologist and since she studies about the diversity of genders and transgender animals, she was intrigued by a book by Devdutt Pattanaik called Shikhandi: And Other ‘Queer’ Tales They Don’t Tell You,  a collection of short stories from Indian mythology, particularly the Mahabharat, that represent a queer perspective. She observed that the book did not have explicitly gay or lesbian stories but dealt with the fluidity of gender in general. She particularly found the footnotes at the end of each story valuable as there the author explored the queer angle of the story in much detail. She read to us the story of Aravan, Arjuna’s son who married none other than Krishna who had taken on the appearance of Mohini. Once he was sacrificed for the greater good, it is said that no widow ever wept for her husband as she.

Nandini spoke about a book called Mind without Measure by J Krishnamurti. The book deals with very important ideas like how the mind, though important, creates problems on which it thrives. A simple example that Nandini mentioned was how we see polarities in everything, rather than seeing things as they are. This book does not seem to be in stock right now, at least in India, but you can read some of his teachings here.

More books in Part 7.


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