Kartik Godse can’t quite understand why his mother Sheila is so excited about moving from Mumbai to Kurseong on work. It seems like a dead-end to him, far away from the throbbing life of a metropolis and without internet at home. But the 13-year-old is proved wrong right from the time their cab, a relic of an Ambassador, begins to amble on its way towards the West Bengal hill station from Bagdogra Airport. Kartik and Sheila stumble upon the legend of the Iyer ghost, endorsed by nearly everyone they meet - the police whom they call to reporter intruders into their new home, Sheila’s childhood friend Pinky Aunty and the locals.
The stories all seem to lead to the isolated mansion, the Iyer Bungalow. With his curiosity tickled and his need to discover the true story behind the ghost sightings, Kartik sets off to solve the mystery. His new friends - Tashi, his classmate at school and Opashona or Opus, Pinky Aunty’s daughter join him. The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong is a children’s book that tells the story of the adventures of Kartik, Opus and Tashi in unravelling the truth.
Shweta Taneja, who has two graphic novels Krishna, Defender of Dharma and The Skull Rosary to her credit, tries to write from the perspective of a teenager here. Is that why the writing is sometimes immature (ignoring some typos)? The characterisations are stereotypical — the gregarious portly Aunty who is a good cook, the girl who thinks she’s smarter than the boy, the frightening, lonely neighbour— they seem to be people we have read of elsewhere and can picture even before Taneja delves further into their personalities. They seem reminiscent of writing styles from a time before. But perhaps that is because she writes of Kurseong, envisaging it as a sleepy town that has not caught up yet.
The Bangalore-based author manages to go past the hitches to soon present a breezy mystery that should appeal to its target audience. It’s simplistic in its telling and even more so in its unravelling.
Has Taneja been able to really get into the mind of a teenage boy, or does she supplant her own childish voice as his, one wonders specially in these times when innocence is lost sooner than before.