Stories of girls from multiple generations

New Delhi, Nov 17 (IANS) From the cotton fields of Telengana to the dark alleys of Kolkata and the dusty, open fields of Uttar Pradesh, a new book brings stories from girls who find their way through storms of body and mind, love and ambition, the complexity of their own personalities, as well their worlds.

The book, “Beauty, Bebo And Friends Pick A Fight And Other Stories” conceptualised by Dipta Bhog and scripted by Shabani Hassanwalia, is a collaborative effort of girls from multiple generations.

This biography of many young selves, of girls and women together looking closely at the fun and the hurdles of growing up, is accompanied by some very interesting visual illustrations by Ikroop Sandhu and Samita Chatterjee.

“The idea of creating this book is to communicate about how the development world looks at girls from the poor community and the marginalised sections. It has also been to move away from a developmental narrative about girls and to do something creative about representing their worlds, their ideas, desires and thoughts,” Dipta Bhog told IANS at the launch of the book on Wednesday.

These graphic stories are of very different girls from very different places negotiating the world as young farmers, housekeepers, babysitters, fieldworkers, labourers, sex workers, but also just as young girls.

“Often we have a prescription of what they should be doing. A lot of policy discourse looks at girls in terms of they must go to school, they must get reproductive health information, they must marry at the right age. They feel that if girls do that, the future would be bright. But girls’ lives are way beyond that,” Bhog said.

“Girls in the age group of 12 to 19 are in transition. They are exploring the world. What are their concerns? Adults have a futurity discourse. They want to look at the benefits of investing in girls. When you work with the girls in reality, you know that there are other very important issues too.

“Issues of sexuality are really critical for young girls and the other important issue is their peers. Often in development of stories we have the super girl phenomenon. There is one girl, who makes a change and is a role model. But I feel that if change has to happen, there really has to be a group of girls bringing it,” she explained.

The stories explore how girlhood can be the scariest and the most alienating experience in the world. In almost every context, and what may be possible when girls don’t fight the big bad world and its many tentacles on their own but as a collective.

According to Bhog, “This book is trying to communicate that there is a gap between the policy and what is actually happening. It is about their voices their conversations and their excitement.”

“It speaks about what they want to do and it is not prescriptive or didactic in nature would not say that education and health are not important. In addition to that, it is important t address the age group which is in transition but there are also other issues,” she said.

The book is based on major research conducted all over India on the lives of young girls, the collectives they’ve made and the kind of impact they have had on the local community.

“I was approached to turn these into dramatised stories. For me, it was a very fun thing to do as I was going back to my child hood,” Scriptwriter Shabani Hassanwalia said.

According to Hassanwalia, “there are situations that we as girls in India have but we feel that we can’t handle them.”

“The interesting part about these stories and this book is that it’s always about doing and not about backing down. It’s about finding a way. These stories are not imagined. This is how girls are in India. Circumstances here are as such that you have to find a way at all levels,” she said.