Published: 05th January 2021
Why Menaka Raman's children's book is relatable for Chennaiites and cricket-lovers alike
We speak to Menaka Raman, author of the children's book Loki Takes Guard, on what inspired her to write about a Chennai girl's coming-of-age tale with a dose of cricket
All Lokanayaki Shanmugam AKA Loki wants to do is play cricket. But she is unable to play in the local team in her Chennai neighbourhood, The Temple Street Tankers, just because it has an all-boys rule. But that doesn't deter her from her path. She is one of those fans who don't wash their underwear before watching a match as it could bring 'bad luck' to the team. And she is not conceding without a fight. Thus forms the premise of Menaka Raman's first children's book Loki Takes Guard, published by Talking Cub (the children's imprint of Speaking Tiger).
Speaking about where she found inspiration for her book, Menaka says, "While dropping off my kids at the bus stop a few years ago, one of my son's classmates came with this giant cricket kit, which she was taking to school. This was the first time I had seen a girl with a cricket kit. A few weeks later, she didn't have the kit with her anymore. When I asked her about it, she said that she usually gets put in a corner, with nothing much to do, in the all-boys team. She had decided to practice elsewhere. That is where the idea came from — what would it be like to be the only girl in a team of boys."
Pic: Menaka Raman
Growing up in Chennai, Menaka felt it was only natural for her to set the book in the city. "When I was young, I used to watch a lot of cricket. I had so many friends and relatives who were crazy about the sport and would sit for long hours to discuss the technical aspect of the game. I wanted to set it in a very particular type of neighbourhood where I would have lived or visited — the ones with narrow lanes and row houses and where everyone knew each others' business. It could be any neighbourhood in Mylapore Tank or Triplicane," explain Menaka.
Menaka says she chose the name Lokanayaki so that it could be shortened into something cool like Loki. "I deliberately chose a name that's very traditional and usually not heard of much anymore. The kids will surely connect Loki to the Marvel universe. And while she makes mischief in her own way, it is never done with malicious intentions. But her actions do set off a course of events with great repercussions," hints Menaka.
Casual sexism and gender bias still exist towards girls who want to play sports which are considered more of a male domain, says Menaka. And is this perhaps why she chose to write the book about a girl desiring to play cricket yet unable to do so at a time when India has already produced some talented female cricketers like Mithali Raj or Smriti Mandhana? "In Loki's reality, she wants to play in the team and she is unable to do so. She can't form a team with her girlfriends as they aren't that interested. There is also no cricket team at her school. The book is not a general commentary on the situation but more about what Loki goes through," says Menaka. And you should read the book to find out what Loki does to improve her situation.