Kavitha Mandana writes of a young teenage girl who is a talented athlete, who has to contend with a grandmother concerned with the colour of her skin

Through an engagingly written book for young adults No.9 on the Shade Card, Kavitha Mandana highlights the great Indian obsession with fair skin.

The story is about a talented young teenage girl, who is bright and smart, but has to deal with a grandmother who only cares about how dark her grand daughter will get “with all that running around in the sun” she does in pursuit of her passion for sport. The other family members include an annoying, yet endearing elder brother Murali, a loving mother and a father who is becoming distant by the day.

The book draws the reader in for the wonderful way in which the story is told and for excellent, lucid writing that brings alive powerful characters.

Kavitha’s short stories for children and adults have been published in a number of anthologies and textbooks. She is the author of two other books, Akbar, The Mighty Emperor and Tenali Raman, which is in its eighth re-print, but No. 9 On The Shade Card is special for her.

“This book flowed out because there was passion in it. My daughter is an athlete. Girls are stigmatised because they have a tan. It angers me to see the media play games with their minds. I wanted to show that the worst stereotyping happens at home. It’s so killing when the stigma begins at home.

That’s why I make the grandmother who makes the girl feel bad about being dark,” says Kavitha.

Her book was launched recently at Oxford Bookstore, where Pramila Aiyappa, two-time Olympian and bronze medal winner at the 2010 Asian Games, Guangzhou, China spoke of her experiences as an athlete.

There has been a movement against myths peddled by the cosmetic industry that “fair is beautiful’. Why is Indian society, then, so fixed on fair skin? Kavitha offers a simple explanation. “It flags off status and high caste.” Another interesting aspect of the book is sports, often viewed as a male-dominated field. “Sport is about strength. A sports girl’s walk is of strength. Sport is not about winning, it’s about enjoyment.”

Kavitha, who has been writing and illustrating for a leading daily for 15 years, says she’d really like parents to read the book.

No. 9 on the shade card is a Rupa publication and is priced at Rs. 195.