Most kids love to read about princes and princesses and in the process, they begin to relate to these characters and look up to them as role models.
The princess in your kid’s story book is usually an English-speaking, fair-skinned, petite lady. That could perhaps be a relatable role model for most kids of the West, although some other inclusive versions have also evolved in the past few years. But where does the Indian princess fit in these narratives?
An NRI parent, Aishwarya Rajan Babu’s four-year-old daughter living in Chicago, Illinois, was reading one such book on a Disney princess when she asked a simple question, “Why is there no Disney princess from India?”
Aishwarya, founder of the The Mommy Series community online, said, “Years have passed and we are yet to hear any news or updates of Disney Princess from Indian decent…(I) learnt many moms themselves had the dream hold a Disney Princess from Indian descent.”
Disney had previously announced an Indian character ‘Mira, Royal Detective’, a commoner who solves mysteries in the fictional town of Jalpur. The show is slated for release in 2020, as per reports.
The need for an authentic princess closer to home inspired Aishwarya to start a contest called Princess of Hearts for moms and kids to design a Disney Indian princess they want to see as part of the line up. “The contest had three rounds, beginning with sharing a real or imaginary story about who they envision to be the Indian princess, then a princess speech or with empowering words or makeover and last but not the least a round to showcase the princess talent,” she told Express Parenting.
Ideas soon poured in from all corners and gave rise to a variety of characters. “I’ve always been a big fan of fairy tales and when I envisioned each character as a child, I always thought that a princess should be fair, slim, with long blonde hair, blue eyes and speaks English. And I used to think that all the princesses were real and lived in a big castle at Disney world. But this contest gave an opportunity to create a princess who looked like every Indian girl,” said Rajini Anand, one of the participants.
Some other parent-kid duos also explored contemporary issues including transgender princess, princess with challenges, princess who voiced on child abuse and more, judged by a diverse panel including authors, social activists and mompreneurs, among others.
Mamta Shah and her daughter, for instance, addressed the issue of child abuse. “My daughter and her safety…likewise the safety of every individual drove me to participate in this contest. (My daughter) may be is still unsure about what rape and child abuse exactly is…may be her knowledge of good touch, bad touch is a little raw but she knows that if she is in such a situation she has to react, shout out for help or use her self-defence,” she remarked.
“Girls need to break stereotypes and do what they love with their head held high. Needless to say my daughter is an inspiration as well, as I watch her through and through struggling to come out of her cocoon,” remarked another mom Alika Narayan to Express Parenting.
The initiative hopes to instill values of inclusivity and empathy among kids from a young age and empower them. “It’s important to sow the seeds earlier and teach kids young and not wait until we reach a workplace to discuss on diversity and inclusion,” said Aishwarya.
As a parent staying away from her native country, the mom added, “I wish for Indian children or those with Indian roots to learn about the sacrifices and strengths of Indian women over the ages. We would also wish for other ethnicity children to learn and embrace our culture so we are more accepted, recognised and not discriminated by colour or economic status.”