Nayantara, the Brave

Nayantara steps out of Vaishali Shroff’s book The Strange Case of Nayantara and speaks to children about how to handle pesky adults who just don’t take NO for an answer when they want to hug or kiss you. Consent is a precious word and Nayantara knows all about it.


Nayantara, what did you not like about being hugged or lifted up by the adults around you? That's how they show their love after all.

Nayantara: I know. I am not uncomfortable when people show their love and affection to me. But they are the people who I love and trust completely - like my parents, my grandparents, my close friends, even my lovely neighbours, Sajjankaka and Namitakaki. I don't like it when the 'others' just do as they please with a body that belongs to someone else. It's my body - if someone makes me uncomfortable and I express my feelings, shouldn't that be respected?

What is this idea of 'uncomfortable' with someone's touch mean? I have never thought of it that way.

Nayantara: Something makes me squirm inside when 'others', whoever they may be, try to get as affectionate and loving is what I would call 'uncomfortable'. Something about that touch just does not feel right and I know it. I don't feel the same warmth. And besides, it's best to keep your distance from people you're not sure about. I would like to trust my instinct. 

Even if something is uncomfortable, I don;t really open my mouth and speak against it. It's so odd; the others will make fun of me fighting about silly things. How did you get the courage?

Nayantara: That's where we go wrong. When we don't speak up against the wrong, we become wrong, too! If we don't stand up for ourselves, who will? If we always come across as vulnerable and gullible, people will always take advantage of us. That should not happen. We must fight for ourselves and when we can't, we must not hesitate in asking others for help. 

How did you feel when the villagers spoke against you and your family?

Nayantara: I felt very sad for my Papa and Maa. It wasn't their fault. Not once did the villagers ask themselves, 'Did we do anything wrong to Nayantara?' They were scared and worried about their family. They did what they thought was best for them.

How do I become as brave as you?

Nayantara: If anyone touches you without your consent, and you don't like it, never hesitate to step back or ask the person to stop or say 'NO!' If your polite response is not understood, be firm. Similarly, if you want to show your love and affection to someone else, say give people a hug or a kiss (which is perfectly normal by the way) but that someone else steps back, hesitates, or says 'NO', you must step back as well. Ask people if they're okay and listen to the answer. Always ask for help if you cannot fight the situation. 

What if a friend of mine wants help with a similar problem? How can I help?

Nayantara: It's so wonderful of you that you want to help your friend. Explain 'consent' to your friend. Tell them that even if the person who is making them uncomfortable is a known uncle or aunt or friend or neighbour, what is important is how YOU feel. If you feel loved, give some love back! But if you feel restless, anxious, uncomfortable, unsure, maybe even yucky, just step back. Say politely that you don't like to be hugged or kissed. But if they don't get it and continue to disrespect your feelings like it happened with me, be firm and inform your parents or teachers or any trusted adults who are with you at that moment. If you are alone, go home and inform your parents immediately about what happened. Be safe!

Author Vaishali Shroff interviewed by Harshikaa Udasi

Copyright: Book Trotters Club

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