Anjana Neira Dev
FRIENDS UNDER THE SUMMER SUN by By Ashutosh Pathak. Illustrations by Kanak Shashi Pratham Books Level 4, Bengaluru, 2019, pp., INR 75.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

How do you tell a story about a person whose identity has been the subject of prejudice and stereotyping for generations of ignorance and narrow-minded bigotry? You do so by making a trans character a friend, who is comfortable in her skin and negotiates questions about whether she is a boy or a girl, with unselfconscious ease. Nimmi is frustrated and sulky because she cannot go out and enjoy the fleeting joys of summer with her friends and instead must help her mother with the household chores and the care of her one-month-old brother, Momo. In many ways this is a coming-of-age story and as Nimmi carries twelve white eggs to Akka’s Cakes and Bakes, she meets Shri the young baker and learns about the joys of taking something you love and giving it a shape, the most evocative description of baking I have ever come across. From Shri, with her enviable collection of shoes and nails painted in all the colours of summer, Nimmi learns how insignificant gender binaries are in the larger scheme of things and with her, she bakes an un-birthday cake, that is summer personified with all its smells and rainbow hues. As Shri had promised ‘the things you love never go away’, even after the seasons change, as this is a memory that Nimmi will carry with her for life. Ashutosh Pathak and Kanak Shashi have put together a story that carries an important message, with a touch that is as delicate as the summer breeze, redolent with joy and immutable treasures.