Narrated by a young weaver ant, Utsukta the story poses tough questions at society’s hypocrisies. She wants to understand why she should come second to her male classmate who copied her answers in exam, or why Pantheni bajai, who ‘reeks of raw milk and cow dung’ snaps at her to stay away before sprinkling purifying water on the clothes Utsukta has carefully brought for her.
Ujjwala Mahajan’s जुभी (Juvie), is a much darker fable of children in juvenile homes, illustrated by Alina Chhantel in the many shades of red and black, with barbed wires running across the pages.
What is striking about this surreal and sensitive story is the multitude of eyes that grow on the children’s skins, as though constantly watched and judged by the world outside.
“Books about children’s rights are usually didactic, and we have an image in our heads about people who are punished for breaking the law as irredeemable and violent people,” she says, “and with Juvie we wanted to break that narrative.”