Diary of a Little Woman | Order of the Madcaps

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Young Nila joins her first activism group, and finds that society is riddled with inhumane issues crying out for resolution. But she is torn between which she likes better — the possibility of bringing about lasting social transformation or the anchovy snacks.

Getting together as a group to systematically solve society’s problems can be very fulfilling as well as filling.

November 15


Dear Diary,


What a day! Oh what a day!


Yes, we had the first round table conference of the Order of the Madcaps (Poonguzhali Akka made us all wear funny caps. Appa hated it. Najju Paati wore two).

Today definitely falls in my top three days of the past year (the first is of course first date with Sandy. Second, close call between that terrace talk and finding Ammu).

Anyhow, I digress. New word — digress. It means wander away from topic. It’s my new favourite word. Also, anchovies. Poonguzhali Akka asked if we wanted a bite of anchovies fry. I thought that was some kind of mushroom or broccoli type vegetable. When Akka brought out the plate, it was piled with deep-fried finger-sized fish. Amma glared a silent “don’t you dare eat this, Nila” at me and excused herself to go to the bathroom. In a jiffy, Akka dropped two pieces into my mouth! Yumm max. I’m sorry fish, you look cute and I feel a little bad about gobbling you up but you’re too yummy to resist.

There, again I digressed. Poo says it should be my middle name. I’d pick Minmini.

Enough with the digressions.

Back to the Order of the Madcaps.

Oh dear Diary, so so much happened today that I could write a book out of it. But then this pen will dry up and my fragile hands have to write stupid history test tomorrow so I’m going to keep this as brief as possible.

Actually, I have an idea. At the beginning of the round table, Paati said that one of us could maintain minutes for each of these. This week I volunteered. Next week, I nominated Shanky (he hates to take notes :D).

Also, the president keeps changing every week. This week was obviously Paati. Next week is going to be Varun Anna. He’s so quiet. Will be interesting to see how he manages the whole thing.

Paati was a star. Sometimes I wonder how she can be so perfect. I even asked her once. She said, “I have my Achilles Heels too, Nila kutti. I’m just great at hiding them.” What Achilles? What heel? Before I could ask, she rushed off to the loo. She makes so many trips to the loo! Old age, I suppose.

Oh yeah, the round table. So, I made minutes and I’m writing down a few important things here. You might want to share it with your diary friends. This is definitely the MOST intellectual conversation we’ve had.

The Order: Najju Paati, Poonguzhali Akka, Varun Anna, Poo, Rads, Sandy, Amma, Appa, Siddhu Chacha (Sandy’s cool-cucumber uncle), George Anna (Varun Anna’s best friend from school), Shanky and me.


Najju Paati’s hall. All of us sitting on floor in circle with tall glasses of lime mint juice and five bowls of popcorn.


6 p.m. – 8 p.m.


George Anna is from Kerala. Super tall, super funny. He chuckles like an ox. So, Anna did all his schooling in Nagaland. He’s kinda dark-skinned and all his classmates used to make fun of him calling him ‘Kaaliya’ Kaalu, etc. Anna didn’t let it affect him too much mostly because he was good friends with all the people who used those words, but many other dark-skinned classmates of his used to feel very upset about the whole thing.

Anna told us about how these early years made him realise that beauty is a very individual opninion. So when Anna went to Kerala for college, he was studying in Kottayam (which is supposed to have the most beautiful of Malayali woman). But anna was so tuned into the Nagaland definition of beauty (Oriental kind), that he didn’t find any of his college girls attractive :D

Amma’s best friend Bhavani went to school in Karaikudi. There, kids used to sit in separate caste/colour–based groups during lunch hour. This was in class XI! The Brahmins (mostly fair-skinned) didn’t like to sit with darker kids. It seems their best friend was a brahmin who was a wonderful woman in all respects. But when it was time for her to get married, no one wanted her because she was dark-skinned. It seems in some places they take extra dowry if the girl is dark-skinned. This rule is mostly only for women.

In Appa’s boarding school they’d horribly make fun of dark-skinned people. Appa always wondered why those guys didn’t fight back (especially since some of them were physically stronger than the bullies).

Poonguzhali Akka’s second cousin had tried to harm herself because her classmates and TEACHERS would keep making fun of her dark complexion.

Siddhu Chacha said that some of his dark-skinned colleagues have told him how all this bullying in school has affected their self-confidence as grown-ups. How they find it difficult to talk in public and do people-facing jobs because they’re conscious of their body personality.

All of us junior citizens listened to this quietly. The world is a wicked place. Now I understand why grown-ups are so stressed out all the time. If you have other stupid grown-ups to deal with all day long, it can get really annoying.

Bathroom Break (This was when anchovies entered my tummy)


When Najju Paati said “Ok people so how do we solve this?” there was pin-drop silence. How DO you solve this?

Then, Shanky spoke: “They should put all these bullies in jail and paint them black.”

“Great idea, Shanky boy!” Najju Paati clapped his back. “But painting them black will be counter-productive. The idea is to tell people that black skin is not a handicap. Black paint as punishment will only make them feel black is a horrible thing.”

Sandy said we should drop the bullies on a faraway island where they can all bully each other happily and eventually eat each other up. Ewww.

“We should burn newspapers that advertise for ‘fair-skinned brides’!” George Anna shouted.

Finally, Poonguzhali Akka spoke sense.

“Punishment is not the solution. Education is.”

Siddhu Chacha jumped up excitedly. “Yes, we should start holding sessions like these in classrooms. For middle-schoolers like you all.” Makes so much sense. But some of the teachers need a special session.

Poo came up with a really cool idea though. She spoke about how in many movies and TV serials they make fun of people who are dark-skinned. “Let’s make a petition to these big directors and movie stars and tell them not to make such movies.” Everyone loved her idea. Rads has already drafted out the petition and we’re going to start collecting signs from Monday onwards. We’ll also send one copy to the Prime Minister and ask him to do something about it (no idea, but he’s the PM. He should come up with his own ideas.)

Poonguzhali Akka said we could have short video during movie intervals about this topic (and others too).

I spoke very little, except to ask people to repeat themselves when they spoke too fast. Paati said she’d teach me shorthand, since I love taking notes.


We decided to make these a weekly event.

We started petition.

And I ate anchovies.

Next week, we talk about Cinema and Censorship. “It’s going to be war next week,” Poonguzhali Akka said, pulling both Varun Anna and George Anna by their collars. Wonder what that means.

Yours ‘enilightened and excited’–ly


P.S. When Ashish Chacha was young and was being bullied in school, his father took bhaiyya and went to the bully’s house. The parents and sons spoke, sorted it out and after that the boy never once bullied Ashish Bhaiyya. Could try this strategy also sometimes.

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