Children Books With Inspiring Women Stories: A young Lt. Cdr (retd.) Aishwarya Boddapati was terrified of the ocean even if it was for a family picture on the beach, she would maintain her distance. But the young Boddapati did not know that as an adult she would become one of the six-woman to spend 284 days on the water circumnavigating the globe on the Indian Naval Sailing Vessel. Her journey in closing the distance is fascinating and features one of the cadet stories in Maya Chandrasekaran’s Cadet No. 1 And Other Amazing Women In The Armed Forces.
Chandrasekaran is an author, mother and investor who lives in Bangalore with her husband and two sons. She realised that stories are fascinating not just to the adults but also need to be told to young people, who often believe in the impossibility of women being in the armed forces. This is why her targeted readers are not just young girls but also young boys.
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“When we were kids we read Phantom, Tarzan, Tenali Raman but we knew that there will be only those sorts of stories but now it is expanding,” said Sudha Menon, the author of Inspiring Women. Menon is an author of six non-fiction books, a columnist and the moderator for SheThePeople’s Women Writers Fest.
Lubaina Bandukwala‘s book Coral Woman: Dive Into The Majestic World Of The Coral Reefs With Uma Mani also chooses to tell the story of an inspiring woman to the children in the form of a picture book. Together Chandrasekaran and Bandukwala talked about their writing and the young adult and children fiction industry in India while Lt. Crd (retd) Aishwarya Boddapati talks about her sail and challenges.
Books Inspired By Women
The idea of writing a book about inspiring women in the services for a young adult audience came to Maya Chandrasekaran through the story of her great aunt a doctor and wing commander Vijaylakshmi Ramanan. Ramanan was born in 1924 and forged her own path as a professional, musician and as someone in the armed services.
It took more than a year for her and Meera, with whom she collaborated to understand the lives of the women they were writing about through primary and secondary research. “Every woman pioneers mentioned in the book’s sidebar is a book in itself,” she said.
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Maya’s sole objective was to take these ‘Her’ stories that have been missed so far or have not been covered and give due consideration a step forward and bring it to the young reader’s attention.
Women in Navy
Lt. Crd (retd) Aishwarya Boddapati is a metallurgist by profession. She remembers a time when she was applying for jobs at steel factories, they said that female candidates cannot apply. This was one thing that drove her to the navy because they were looking for officers to join and they did not specify the gender required to apply, just qualification.
Still water does not scare her but she started preparing for her job at the Navy. To start with she learnt how to swim. After joining the Navy, she was put into sea swimming. Thus began her adventure.
For the 284 days out in the sea, they were prepared for certain challenges but some came in the form of weather, especially in the south pacific region there is a lot of storms passing by because the channel between the two continents becomes less. “We got into the tail of a storm and trying to get out of it lasted 10-18 hours. 30 feet huge waves were coming and crashing at us. It took physical strength. The closest land was 4000 miles to the east and 6000 to the west. The help would take 48 hours to come and in another instance, the steering of the boat broke,” recalled Lt Bodapatti.
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“We did not want to give up. No one remembers a failure story and we had a huge responsibility on us. The entire country and world were watching what these six girls are up to and the journey. The only thing that kept going in our head was to complete this successfully,” she said.
Challenges in Writing for Children Book
Writing for young people is very challenging. The thing about children’s writing, according to Bandukwala is how much one can say in a few words. This according to her is sophisticated writing because one needs to distil the essence of what one wants to say very briefly.
The same dilemma she faces when Good Pitch approached her to take the film Coral Woman by Priya Thuvassery and take it to the children in form of a book. Although, after watching the film she was fascinated and wondered the ways in which a book could create a parallel conversation.
Uma is the focal point of the book. “Every day women do extraordinary things but we do not take it into consideration,” said Bandukwala, who has done masters in journalism and then moved into children’s writing and publishing.
In the book, Uma is a middle-aged woman who at the age of 45 overcame her fear of swimming because she really wanted to see the corals. She learnt diving, swimming and put outside what people might say. Love for corals to the conservation of it. It was also a great opportunity to divert children’s attention to Coral Reefs around India. They do great service to the ocean’s coastline.
Although it is not just writing that is difficult, getting taken seriously as a children’s writer is another story altogether.
“Most people are dismissive of children’s books. First, it is hard to make living as a children’s writer, the economics of it is difficult and as a profession, not much is known about it,” said Bandukwala.