Teenagers can be such a crazy mix of adult attitude and utter silliness. They hide a lot of confusions and questions behind that blasé attitude. I just want to talk about their lives —what they face, their relationship with the adult world, siblings or school. The smart ones see through adults and their sanctimonious lectures very quickly, so NO lectures,” says Subhadra Sen Gupta.
The author of Double Click! has done exactly that in this adventure story about four girls in a hostel. Sen Gupta is known for her historical fiction. How did something as contemporary as this come about? “Even amateur historians need a break,” is her answer.
Double Click!Young Zubaan,170 pages, Rs195
Back to Double Click! Padma, Mandy (Mandeep), Charu and Jahan are hostellers who share a room in St Teresa Convent in New Delhi. Padma is a computer freak, Mandy an aspiring beauty queen, Jahan, the sporty type, while Charu is pretty “ordinary”, but the thinker. The gang of four, called the Foxy Four, is inseparable and always on the lookout for adventure.
It all starts when, one afternoon, their classmate Simran surreptitiously hitches a ride in a grey car and doesn’t come back. Only Charu notices this event. The story moves into high gear as the gang finds Simran’s laptop and her father receives a ransom call for Rs1 crore. From central Delhi to old Delhi to south Delhi, the foursome uses every trick in the book to track down the criminals through fashion studios, night clubs, discotheques and old havelis.
Helped by Jahan’s aunt Razia, who is their principal Sister Rose’s friend, the four try to find clues in Simran’s emails, quiz the kidnapped girl’s brother, cousin and uncles, and careen around Delhi in a rickety school bus, car and rickshaws. But, can they get to her before it is too late?
Sen Gupta is right there with the teenagers—getting the lingo, attitude and approach to life right. “I was a bit nervous,” she admits, adding, “about handling teenage issues. So, I handed out a lot of copies to kids with the promise that they’ll mail me. What they seemed to enjoy the most is the social side of the story—the gang stuff. I got the lingo after watching MTV and Channel V for a couple of months. I love the way they say, ‘whatever’ and shrug.”
By using a hostel setting, Sen Gupta also found it easy to get four girls in one place and avoid the complications of writing about their families. “A hostel means they can operate independently much more easily,” she says. Sen Gupta has drawn from her own experiences at hostel.
Apart from writing historical fiction and thrillers, Sen Gupta got together with illustrator Tapas Guha to do comic strips of Satyajit Ray’s detective stories, the Feluda series. It appears in Telekids, the children’s page of The Telegraph in Kolkata. “I get a tremendous kick out of scripting comics,” she says.
Are there more Foxy Four adventures in the pipeline? “I haven’t a clue. Let me start the next one at least. Right now my head is a jumble of impossible plots but yes if it takes off I would like to do a series,” she says. Sen Gupta, who lives in Delhi, promises to take the four across India and weave in amazing places and typical Indian characters like “bus conductors, kabariwallahs, Bong intellectuals, TamBrahms, tourist guides and temple priests”.
For the author, who finds them very interesting, nothing much seems to have changed in teenagers. She finds a similarity in every generation—the same mix of confidence and confusion, hormones and heartache. “Some things are different, though—like their obsession with looks or exposure to drugs and a lot of money,” she points out. And Double Click! has them all.
The writer is the editor of Heek (e-heek.com), a children’s magazine.
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