Books

Author Lakshmi Iyer takes on serious issues with light-hearted flair in ‘Why is My Hair Curly’

Avantika loves reading, meeting new people and journalling. While she may sound like any other 10-year-old girl there is something special about her that makes her stand out — she has a gorgeous head of curls.

Sadly, the way she sees it, her mane is the bane of her existence, causing her endless angst that she finds hard to share with her friends, let alone her parents. Her journey of self-awareness and how she comes to terms with her identity forms the premise of Why is My Hair Curly? by Lakshmi Iyer.

Author Lakshmi Iyer takes on serious issues with light-hearted flair in ‘Why is My Hair Curly’

While Avantika is a figment of Lakshmi’s imagination, a lot of adults will identify with the woes of that little girl — a sibling you hate to love (or love to hate), sensible parents who behave irrationally at times, friends who just don’t get you and worst of all, days when everything seems to fall apart with a vengeance.

“Most of the characters in the book are drawn from people I know or have met someplace,” says Lakshmi, who was also an avid reader and kept a diary as a child.

‘Findind cathartic relief’

A former banking professional, Lakshmi took to writing for a digital platform soon after moving to New York in 2001. One of her early posts on arranged marriages went viral and she discovered the bonding of an online community. By 2005, she was blogging full-time, finding cathartic relief in the process. “At the time, I was also grappling with issues of infertility and adoption, and blogging became my therapy,” she says, adding that the process of writing as well as the virtual community of like-minded people, helped keep her grounded.

Author Lakshmi Iyer takes on serious issues with light-hearted flair in ‘Why is My Hair Curly’

In mid-2019, Lakshmi was approached by a publisher who had read her blogs, to write a children’s book. “Till then, I thought of myself as serious writer of non-fiction, but they said they liked ‘my voice’ so I thought I’d give it a try,” she says.

Now a mother to three daughters, Lakshmi had enough insight into the thought processes of little girls. Though a slim volume, the characters in Why is My Hair Curly? are well fleshed out and subtle nuances like how a random word of kindness or a smile can leave a positive impact, have been fit in without being too preachy.

Lakshmi is thrilled how the sketches for the book created by Niloufer Wadia turned out. “They have an RK Narayan-like vibe to them. Niloufer just read the book and brought my characters to life,” she says with happy pride.

Author Lakshmi Iyer takes on serious issues with light-hearted flair in ‘Why is My Hair Curly’

Another thing that pleased Lakshmi no end was the sensibilities of the publishers in keeping the book inherently South Indian. Kaapi, murukku, wayward nadas and Tamil terms of endearment and belonging, make frequent appearances alongside Niloufer’s sketches in this delightful book, suitable for readers of all ages.

‘Why is My Hair Curly?’ is a Westland publication and is priced at ₹250. It is available online

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 8:41:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/in-a-tangle/article32138297.ece

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