Mayil Ganeshan's biggest problems include having three textbooks for Science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology), sneaking out for a movie without getting caught, and not knowing how to spell big words (Fyooriyus!).
At 12, going on 13, she fills her diary with doodles, hopes, rants and problems of a pre-teen, with doses of humour that leave you nostalgic. After all, we've all written them in our diaries too…
“Mayil Will Not Be Quiet” is a book by two inconsistent diary-writers, Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran. And, their protagonist is just as sporadic, sometimes not writing for 20 days, making her story seem comfortably real.
A personal space
“A diary is a personal space where you can disagree, and people can't really question that. The format also allows an author to explore all the questions that pop into the mind of a girl that age. There are school issues, fights, class politics, and conflicts at home. When you grow up, you are told to behave in a certain way, and children might not always agree,” says Sowmya.
The authors initially planned a resource on gender for children, and then tweaked it into a diary to help them relate to it. While this is their maiden venture together, they're both published children's authors.
“We met in college, and realised that gender was one of our pet topics. There are so many books on gender, but nothing really accessible to children. We wanted to write something that helped them understand it better. It started out differently, but we changed it in a way it is more layered, and gender is subtly present throughout the book,” Niveditha explains.
And, it's not just girls who like the book, the authors say. “This isn't a chicklit,” Niveditha exclaims. “Children are far more open-minded these days. A lot of boys were interested in the book. It's not a ‘girly' book, but one anyone can relate to.”
Through her myriad emotions and witty entries, Mayil evolves not just from Sowmya and Niveditha's imagination, but from their memories.
“There are a lot of autobiographical elements in the story; characters and events drawn from what we've experienced. But, there are also others we have created. Since we wrote the book together, we shared the experiences,” Sowmya says, adding: “The good thing about writing together is we can always keep the other in check if it goes overboard.”
But, why will Mayil not be quiet? “The title has two meanings. One is explained in the book — she's a chatterbox who is given a diary so she can talk into it non-stop. On the other hand, children of that age are very impressionable. Mayil is a child who refuses to accept what she's told and keep quiet about it,” says Soumya.
“We also wanted to take Mayil's story beyond the book, and began a microsite where children can log on and have fun, play games and hold discussions,” Niveditha says.
(“Mayil Will Not Be Quiet” is priced at available at all bookstores for Rs. 150. Visit Mayil online at >http://mayil.tulikabooks.com )