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What the Readers Had to Say About the Award-Winning Book ‘Wild Child and Other Stories’

Paro Anand was awarded the 'Sahitya Akademi Bal Puraskar' 2017 for her book ‘Wild Child and Other Stories’ now published as ‘Like Smoke: 20 Teens 20 Stories’.

Paro Anand was awarded the ‘Sahitya Akademi Bal Puraskar’ 2017 for her book ‘Wild Child and Other Stories’ now published as ‘Like Smoke: 20 Teens 20 Stories’.
Stories of young teenagers, standing at the precipice of some of the toughest years of their lives, ‘Like Smoke’ found tremendous resonance among its readers.
Here is what some of the award-winning writer’s readers had to say about her book.
Tara Chawla
What did the story make you aware of? 
Never judge a book by its cover. This is what Like Smoke has made me aware of. There is always so much more to a person than meets the eye. One can have an ugly appearance but be good at heart. Deep down in all our hearts that beauty lurks waiting to be discovered by someone who understands us. As they say, looks can be deceptive.
Likewise human beings tend to have pre-conceived notions about places as well- often formed by the views of others. Every place has its own and the same not being noticed via the superficial glance till it is explored properly and extensively without any preconceived notions.
Another thing that Paro Anand has taught me through this uniquely written book of hers is that labels are just words. The word Hindu or Sikh just creates boundaries. Why should we assume all Muslims are terrorists? Why should a person not be liked because they are ‘fat’? Why should labels define us? We judge others and ourselves with these labels. Doesn’t every one of these people with the labels have two eyes, a nose and a beating heart? Isn’t that what should define us?
What does this awareness inspire you to do? 
After reading this book I have been inspired to create a change in my own behavior. I am going to put aside any assumptions that come to my mind due to the name and other’s opinions of the place. As Gandhi Ji rightly said ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. Instead of telling others to change themselves I am going to change myself so that others change. I am going to forget all the labels, the opinions and the assumptions. I am going to look at the world with my own eyes; I am going to decide for myself. I am the one who is going to make the change.
Nohreen Madha 
What did the story make you aware of?
The story which I liked the most is ‘THOSE YELLOW FLOWERS OF AUGUST’. The first three words ‘I HATE MUSLIMS’ divert my mind towords this story. In this story, there is a girl named Nitya whose father was killed in a bomb blast. This bomb blast took place near a temple. As Hindus and Muslims are considered as enemies ( which they are not) Nitya felt that this bomb blast was done by Muslims. After her father died, they went to stay with their grandparents as her mother was depressed. Nitya joined new school. On the first day of school, Nitya like a boy named Khalid. Nitya came to known that khalid was a muslim boy and she started ignoring him. Nitya and khalid were sitting behind a big bunch of yellow flowers where they had to think about a topic for role play. Khalid came to known that Nitya was avoiding him, then too he kept on talking. Nitya told Khalid about her father and about her feeling she had for Muslims. Khalid got hurt. He explained to Nitya that bomb blast was done by Terrorist , and there is a vast difference between Muslims and Terrorist. Nitya understood and hence, forward they both became friends. That is what I too realized not to judge people because of their religion.
Shifa Azmi
What did the story make you aware of? 
“Like smoke” includes 20 different stories of 20 different teenagers. Every story touches upon the emotion which every teenager may have felt during a point of their life.  Stories includes factors like friendship, religion, love, hate, death…we all sometime feel depressed, stressed and feel like we just can’t take it anymore. The book is a collection of young adults fiction short stories. I think anyone who reads this book can imagine the stories. Each story will help you look inside the mind of teenagers. Each of the stories deals with some or other conflicts in a teenager’s life there are many types of conflicts-  There is story related with terrorist conflicts, which led to loss of lives, people lose their parents, siblings, etc.
Experiences of teenagers, their prejudices and resolutions are predominant themes in their stories.
For example- The first story called, ‘Those Yellow Flowers of August’ deals with a teenager girl’s hatred for Muslims because she loses her Father in a bomb blast. She believes all Muslim are violent and she just used to hate them a lot, unless she met a boy names Khalid.
What does this awareness inspire you to do? 
A story called, ‘They called Her fats’ is a story of Fatima Whitebread who went to win an Olympic bronze and silver medals and later in 1987, the World Championship in the field of Javelin throw. The struggle and Hard work she goes through was very inspiring.
Through this book I learnt many values, lessons, morals.
This book is a book which can change people’s perspective on many things. This book gives us message that — “No matter how many thing that matters is, we should always have positive mind, no matter what happen we should be determined and strong.
Soorya Balasubramanian 
What did the story make you aware of? 
The book made me aware of society’s deplorable condition. We are willing to single out an entire religion to blame for the terrorist actions of madmen. This stems a new fear- Muslimophobia. A word, I believe was never to be conceived. The author’s fury at this ideology led her to write a line that rouses anger and fury, yet makes you aware of the plight of muslims in this world. It says: “Bombs don’t have a religion. Terrorists don’t have a religion. So don’t put my belief into the same bracket as bombs.” These stories need to be placed in the hands of every world leader, commoner and terrorist.
I have learnt of Courage, not as we perceive it, but on a different level altogether. I once heard a line that bests illustrates the kind of courage I’m inspired to take up. The line is, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the belief that something is more important than fear.” The manner with which Gaurav, a boy in one story, guides his enemy out of the vicious cycle of vices and addictions, The way Zeenat, a girl rebelling against the harsh laws in PoK, develops the amazing singing talent in her and promotes other talented people from her region, as illustrated in the book; these examples are examples of true courage. Chilling ironies accompany many stories, making me aware of the consequences of our seemingly inconsequential statements. The stories allow us to be a spectator to loss, yet, experiencing in the same measure, the emotions experienced by the characters. After all, I realized that, love and courage are 2 things prevailing over all the hardships that accompany this worldly life, while keeping us together as a society.
The 20 stories made me realize the different ways of life we live, and how this molds our character. Divorced children, Children in the heart of terrorism, abandoned, led astray, abused, sold; I am thankful I’m born into a good home. It made me realize the insignificant appearance of petty fights at home in front of the circumstances of these children.
What does this awareness inspire you to do? 
It has made me look at terrorist acts differently. I now know it’s conducted by a rogue faction of a peaceful people, and that has caused me to completely change my mindset. Simple monetary aid to children in any of the above conditions wouldn’t help. It would be snatched away by greedier, idiotic minds. It has made me realize my helplessness as a child. But, as a team, I’m sure we can help make a difference. Therefore, when I’m a little older, I would like to start a group, to help evacuate those trapped in PoK, with help from the Indian Army. I would like to make an Impact with at least a few children, by rescuing them from the deplorable conditions of state run orphanages, and console them. Truly, the world needs love now, and not money. Love is the currency that keeps this world turning
Simran Zaveri
What did the story make you aware of? 
Like all great books that induce powerful emotions to the readers, Like Smoke tells the tale of 20 different teenagers who are struggling with their lives. It read to me 20 different riveting and heart wrenching stories about the teenage struggles. It spoke of the different things that teenagers undergo during adolescence in today’s day and age. From reading this book, I understood the fact that teenagers feel pressured into ‘fitting in’. They are constantly being bullied into meeting the harsh standards that society makes for them. If you’re short, it’s a problem. If you’re fat it’s problem. If you’re too manly it’s a problem. I learned that a teenage life is that of loneliness, but I also learned that teenagers have fought back. Like when Anita defied her coach and with the help of her best friend made it onto the basketball team despite being very short. Or when the overweight girl who loved to cook found a friend who loved her for her and she was happy. Or even when Fatima didn’t care what any had to say about her muscles because she loved herself and loved why she had those muscles. The teens describes in this book were dangerously strong as they challenged everything that they were taught to believe. They didn’t follow society’s standards which is truly a beautiful thing. From this book I learned teenagers are scared, vulnerable and just try to fit in. But I also learned that they’re smart, powerful and they can fight back
What does this awareness inspire you to do? 
I already know about a teenager’s life being hard. After all, I am one. But what I didn’t know is that it’s every teen that faces the same problems and choices that I do. I realized that every teenager goes trough a lot of difficult things and when I realized this, I made a promise to myself that I would never judge anyone based on their appearances. I promised myself I wouldn’t degrade anyone. I wouldn’t call anyone names. I would try to be kinder, try to make people feel better about themselves. I would try to help people be more accepting of themselves, teach them to love themselves and not be ashamed of who they are, or something they can’t change. If I could, I would dive into the book and tell Anita that she’s an excellent basketball player, or I would tell the Fatima to not listen to anyone and to follow her dreams, like she was already doing. Reading this book has taught me that even smiling at someone could make their day infinity better. The book inspired me to be a better person, and that is what I am going to do. Become someone better and kinder than who I am now.
Yashasvi Mehta 
What did the story make you aware of? 
I had never before read a book written for teenagers, featuring their true stories of courage, hope, emotions, fear and love.
These 20 stories opened my eyes to the real world, a world very different from my protected, secure, happy cocoon. I realized that many children my age were going through so many problems in different corners of the country. Some had to fight religion- based issues, others had to face violence, heartbreak and abuse, still others were bullied for being fat, ugly or uncool. Some had seen death so closely that it brought tears to my eyes and made me realise the value of our loved ones.
Stories like ‘See You Shortly’ and ‘In the Shadow of Greatness’ taught me that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself. ‘Santa’s not so Little Helper’ was a hilarious story that showed that essays need not be boring, serious or mundane. ‘Like Father, Like Son’ sent shivers down my spine and gave me a taste of the paranormal. Reading ‘I am Old and Tired Now’ put me in a lion’s shoes and I felt the emotions of an animal which longed for peace as much as man did. ‘Susu’ was great fun to read and still brings a naughty smile on my face and has now become a hit word in my friend circle! ‘Teenagers are Pack Animals’ made me see us teenagers from a teacher’s viewpoint and forced me to ask myself, ‘Are we really pack animals?’
In all, this book was an insight into how the world looks at us and how we look at the world and how we could contribute greatly to make it a better place to live.
We congratulate Paro Anand on achieving this great milestone!
Order your copy of ‘Like Smoke’ here now!

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