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‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Deserves All The Accolades It Has Won, Here’s Why

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By John A. Raju:

A Pulitzer prize winner, 30 million copies sold, a movie adaptation and #1 on many lists such as must reads, best books of the twentieth century, translated to over forty languages and voted best novel of twentieth century, To Kill A Mockingbird is one book that needs no more acclaim to be called a success. Yet many are the number of my friends & peers who haven’t read this wonderful book by Harper Lee.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Avid readers love to read anything termed a ‘classic’ and many, though not all, love to boast that they have enjoyed a classic though it might have been the most boring book and a dry, dragging experience. Not so with To Kill A Mockingbird. A modern classic, written in the 1960s, you need no pretenses with this book. This is one story you will adore, love, embrace and adopt. And here is why.

The story takes place in the “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama. Narrated through the perspective of six year old Scout, a tomboy who lives with her ten year old brother Jem and widowed lawyer father Atticus Finch, the protagonist, the story unfolds during three years of the Great Depression and traces the moral & emotional transition of the children from innocence to stark encounters with prejudices, racism, social orthodoxy and the ostracism they have to face because of the moral stand their father takes.

It starts with Scout’s childhood experiences. The kids and their friend Dill are fascinated by the social recluse “Boo” Radley. Having only heard of him and never seen him, they build him up, in their imagination, to be some graphic monster and are terrified but intrigued by him and even attempt to catch a glimpse of him. The mysterious character develops affection for the kids and leaves them gifts but the kids do not recognize his advances for friendship. The narration then follows the fights they get into, the disciplining at the hands of their strict black nanny Calpurnia and the simple yet fun memory making adventures that marks most childhoods. The turning point comes when Atticus is appointed to defend a black man Tom Robinson accused of raping a white woman. Doing his job sincerely results in his children being subject to taunts of “nigger-lover” at school. Despite convincingly proving the innocence of Tom, Atticus loses the case to the racial prejudice, but wins hearts. Tom is shot trying to escape from gaol. Bob Ewell, the man who won the case against Tom, but lost his peace and respect attempts to take revenge on Atticus by attacking his kids. The so far invisible Boo Radley saves them, Ewell is killed and Scout finally meets and likes Boo, also sympathizing with his loneliness.

What makes this novel so endearing is the honesty in Scout’s voice. In humor filled yet warm tones, Scout, in all the innocence of her years describes the society around her and portrays her immense respect for Atticus. The novel does not just trace the racial prejudices prevalent at the time. Atticus comes across as the epitome of integrity. He is at once the voice that pricks the conscience of a society that judges a man on the basis of his colour and the man who inculcates valuable lessons to his kids through example. He scolds Scout for nicknaming Radley and asks her to call him by his first name Arthur. His advice of “You will never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view” is understood by Scout by the end of the story. An important lesson that Atticus imparts is that of courage which he elucidates as knowing you are gonna get licked even before you begin an endeavor, and yet beginning it and seeing it through no matter what.

Despite initially seeing her father as a boring man, Scout comes to respect him and so do we. He is a hero in his own right, who teaches us that most people aren’t inherently good or evil but come in shades of grey. For him, courage isn’t about physical strength but moral power. His maxim “the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is your conscience” is a personal favourite.

Despite exploring the themes of racism, prejudices, the question of good and evil, there is never a dull moment in the narration, the story is well spiced with innocent sarcasm and honest, unbiased observations. One of the most heart warming novels of all time and deservedly voted the novel of the century, you will never regret reading or even re-reading this classic.

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  1. Jayasmita Ray

    Absolutely brilliant book and the same can be said for the movie as well!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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