No Nonsense Nandhini
Longlisted | Book Awards 2021 | Writings for Young Adults
No Nonsense Nandhini
I’m the boss. I make my own decisions. Naresh has the world’s coolest mother – she wakes up at midnight, dons a miner’s lamp and goes to her field to harvest flowers. Will he be able to show everyone at school that she’s a hero? Aparna Karthikeyan tells the story of Nandhini, a remarkable woman who juggles single parenthood and a sampangi farm in Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu. Based on real events, this is a story about a woman who cultivates a cheery disposition and stubbornly pursues her daring, unusual dreams.
Aparna Karthikeyan tells the story of Nandhini, a remarkable woman who juggles single parenthood and a sampangi farm in Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu. Based on real events, this is a story about a woman who cultivates a cheery disposition and stubbornly pursues her daring, unusual dreams.
Aparna Karthikeyan is a storyteller, independent journalist and volunteers for the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI). She's the author of a nonfiction book: Nine Rupees an Hour, on the disappearing livelihoods of Tamil Nadu (Context) and two children's books: Cat's Egg (Karadi Tales) and Kali Wants to Dance (Pratham Books). Her articles have been published in The Hindu, PARI, The Caravan, Wire, Scroll.in and other publications on culture, books and livelihoods. She lives in Mumbai with her husband, daughter and dogs.
“The headmistress told me to talk about what it’s like to be a farmer. I can tell you that in one word: hard. It is a very difficult life. We’re surrounded by so much nature and beauty. I pluck sacks of sampangi flowers every day. It becomes part of beautiful garlands, and one Akka in Chennai told me they use it in ‘scents’ and pay a lot of money for it. I keep just a handful at home and my whole house is fragrant. But when can I sit around and admire the beauty or take in the smells? I’m exhausted after working the whole day. You must be wondering – why do I still do it? Why do I not sell my land and go to the city?” She paused and looked around. Many heads were nodding, children, teachers, even her parents, seated to one side of the stage, in their bright, going-out clothes.
“Because I’m the boss. I make my own decisions. I can go to work in a nightie,” she laughed, and so did her audience, “and nobody will shout at me. If I make a profit, I keep it. If I don’t, well, I’m in trouble. I have to pay the interest and the loan – and what high interest rates the money lenders charge! But we have no choice but to go to them. Do you know why? Because when I go to an office or a bank and introduce myself, they tell me to wait in a corner. Where are the chairs for the people who grow your food?” The children clapped in reply. Her parents clapped, her children clapped till their hands were red, and Nandhini smiled at all of them.