Vrinda Bachchan • 11 Jan, 2023 • 5 mins
A very short book that brings in sharp focus the people we usually tend to ignore in our everyday lives and whose efforts we tend to forget as a society.
I remember a day from way back when I was in college, as clearly as it was yesterday and not a full decade ago. A friend and I had gone to the movies, then took a bus back to our hostel, but not before stopping on the way for some spicy golgappas. When we were safely ensconced in our hostel room that night, my friend made an unusual observation that has stayed with me since then.
She asked me if I knew just how many times I’d said the words “thank you” that day. I had no clue, I told her slightly taken aback.
My friend then proceeded to tell me that I’d said thank you at least six times during the course of our movie trip - once to the guy at the ticket window who handed us our movie tickets, once to the guy who showed us the way to our seats in the theatre, once to the girl at the popcorn counter, one more to the security guard who held a door open for us on our way out, then one to the bus conductor when he handed us our tickets, and finally a thank you to the man who fed us spicy street food.
My friend then asked me why I felt the need to thank all these people for simply doing their jobs. I had no answer back then other than the fact that it’s nice to acknowledge and appreciate the little things that people do for you, even if they are paid for it. I recently found the answer in Priyadarshini’s ‘Unsung Sheroes and Heroes’.
Right off the bat, this is not a book for very young readers. It’s more for young adults who can understand and appreciate the depth and simplistic beauty of it. ‘Unsung Sheroes and Heroes’ is a short collection of observations made by the author, describing in wonderful detail the work done by those who exist on the periphery of society but their contributions are what keep the society functioning.
Author Priyadarshini casually throws in the word “sheroes” in the introduction of the book, not to mention the title, without attracting attention to the sheer importance and implications of the word.
The word “shero” is defined as a female hero and has been around, surprisingly, since the 1800s (it is only now that more and more people have started rejecting the use of the word “heroine”, a derivative of the word “hero”). The author here makes a bold statement by putting the two words - Sheroes and Heroes - side by side, casually emphasising gender equality, without ever speaking about it.
A tea stall. Photo by Carol Mitchell (CC BY-ND 2.0).
Priyadarshini successfully manages to draw focus to the unmatched skill, expertise, and talents of people like the tea brewer, the jasmine flower seller, the bus conductor, and henna artists. We may not see much of the works of the wall painter anymore (the trend of advertising through wall paintings died out in the 1990s), and we may not often hear a flute player on the streets anymore, but this book manages to paint a beautiful picture in quite a poetic manner.
Sure, the author romanticises much of the hard labour of blue-collar workers, but we don’t mind that because such romanticism makes sense in the context of her work. She aims to appreciate and make her readers appreciate the contributions of the marginalized, the often overlooked, and the “unsung”. They are sheroes and heroes and need to be acknowledged as such. And in that, she succeeds beautifully.
We give Priyadarshini’s ‘Unsung Sheroes and Heroes’ a solid 4 out of 5 hoots.
You can buy this book on Amazon by clicking on the image below.