During the ongoing pandemic, several people have been ditching their usual shaving, threading, and waxing routines, donning their natural, back-to-basics avatar. With one barely stepping out of one’s homes, “lockdown looks” have become all the rage—and moustaches, beards, and other facial hair have become quite the norm among both young and old. It is interesting that during such a time, there is a new children’s book that simply explains this very timely and relevant concept of body positivity.
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelly Anand and Nabi H. Ali is a delightful little new picture book about a young Indian American girl’s journey to accept her body hair and celebrate her heritage. Shelly Anand is an Atlanta-based human and civil rights attorney who fights for immigrants and workers from marginalized communities. Nabi K Ali is a Tamil-American digital illustrator who enjoys creating works about various cultures and people.
Young Laxmi is a young girl, whose peers in school, Zoe and Noah, get her to notice her facial hair one day while they are playing farm animals at recess. During the game, they ask her to personify a cat, as she has tiny hairs— like whiskers—on her upper lip. All of sudden, Laxmi becomes conscious and all too aware of her “mooch”. In no time, she begins to notice hair all over her body—her arms, knuckles, legs, and between her eyebrows. When she reaches home, she tells her mother about it.
It is then that her mother tells her about several powerful girls and women from history, all of whom sported moustaches—“from Mughal empresses and stately ranis to village girls and city girls.” She tells her about the benefits of having hair all over one’s body—as it protects and keeps us warm. Her parents even tell her about the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who had hair between her eyebrows.
The next day in school, Laxmi tells Zoe that she wants to play jungle animals. This time, she volunteers to impersonate a tiger (“with my long silky mooch!”). She also shows Zoe the tiny blond hairs on her lip and asks her to pretend to be a lion. They draw an artificial moustache for their friend Noah who doesn’t have one yet. And soon, the entire class is queuing up to get “world-class mooches” drawn for themselves!
Thus, through an incident of teasing and body shaming, Laxmi actually manages to overcome her fears and inhibitions, turning it into a positive outcome for herself. Moreover, she teaches her classmates an important lesson to embrace one’s bodies and rejoice in its so-called imperfections. As a result of this “mooch revolution”, her classmates who had natural mooches begin to flaunt them proudly to everyone else.
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.