Breaking the Bias in Binary – The New Indian Express
Express press service
CHENNAI: Tina, despite being frowned upon, wants trucks and motorbikes every Christmas. Salman, who spends the day flying kites with his brothers, likes to paint his nails alone in the dark. Sarah is caught in a daily dilemma of having to choose between a pair of pants or a skirt. Cyrus likes to transport her favorite dolls to play with her friends. Manu, who took ballet lessons, loves to frolic. Sometimes we all feel different. And it’s perfectly fine to be so, comforts Nargis Kapasi through his first book How You Feel Inside: A Poem About Gender Identity.
Each quatrain of this poem, in the brightly illustrated book, contains a different tinge of hope for those who feel different, those who struggle to fit in, and those who want to shape their own identity. “Gender isn’t something you’re born with, it’s ‘how you feel inside’. The book tells the stories of five children on a shared journey to discover their gender. It’s about no -gender conformity and making your own place in a strictly binary system,” says city-based author Nargis.
Nargis used his flair for design to bring out carefully drawn characters who fill the pages with courage and confidence. “Poetry and painting have been my languages of expression since childhood. I think it does wonders for bringing sensitive topics to kids because it’s not direct and leaves room for interpretation. I want books to spark the curious minds of children, because any idea presented to them between the ages of one and five stays with them for life. We have to give them the right conditioning at the start,” she suggests.
Small steps, big difference
A former teacher, Nargis trained as an AMI Montessori teacher during the pandemic and dreams of opening a play school soon. She relies heavily on storytelling and design to communicate, educate and effect change in children, parents and young adults. “While there are a handful of promising children’s books on inclusivity, I couldn’t find many when I wanted one for my six-year-old daughter. writing a book is that my daughter and I met a trans woman while we were out she asked me questions after the incident and I realized it was a good time to have a conversation with her about identity. I’m glad I wrote the book and I got great responses,” exclaims Nargis.
She is delighted that many young parents are open to the idea of introducing their children to meaningful books. “Parents want kids to be aware of a lot of things like religion, race…and more. There’s a lot of room for such content, even among the older generation who appreciate it. They want their children to be more empathetic and aware of the world. That said, there isn’t much you can experience with children. Every story has a backdrop, a problem, and a solution. In the case of the gender identity, non-acceptance is the biggest problem,” she explains.
The world needs more stories of kindness and acceptance, she reiterates. “It’s surprising how little we know, as a society, about something as fundamental as gender. I would be happy if this book could make a difference in the evolution of mentalities. I will also write more books. My daughter has been a great support and inspiration. She often tells me that she is proud of me. I want my work to live up to that,” Nargis sums up.