BENGALURU :If eleven-year-old Ferg Gottin had been bought from a store, his parents would have returned him and demanded a refund.
But everyone knows you can’t buy children any more than you can send them back where they came from. Once you have children, you’re stuck with them, and Mr and Mrs Gottin shuddered at the thought of being stuck with their son forever.
There was nothing wrong with Ferg. He was like any other boy his age. He liked football, he enjoyed riding his bicycle, and he steered clear of spinach and French beans. But he was a child and that, for Mr and Mrs Gottin, was where the problem lay.
You see, Mr and Mrs Gottin hated children. Hating children isn’t a very good thing, but the Gottins weren’t very good people. They looked upon parenting as an experiment that simply hadn’t worked out well for them.
‘Children give me the creeps; I can’t understand them,’ Mrs Gottin lamented, as though she had never been a child herself.
‘Ferg took us by surprise,’ Mr Gottin was fond of saying, ‘we simply weren’t ready for him’ as if Ferg had turned up on their doorstep one fine morning, gift-wrapped, while they were still in their pyjamas.
Ferg was a bright boy and he had fond memories of his first nursery school. It was a small, white building with bookshelves that ran all the way up to the ceiling and colourful pictures that the children had made themselves, dotting the bright green walls. His teachers were a pair of middle-aged women who loved planning picnics and told wonderful stories.
Mrs Gottin’s memories of Ferg’s first school weren’t as fond. She had to suffer mobs of eager parents who spent all their time swapping tales about their children. There were Parent-Teacher Meets and Art Fests and Pet Days— and Mrs Gottin couldn’t, for the life of her, fathom why everything at school had to revolve around kids! The Gottins attended Ferg’s first Annual Show where Mrs Gottin quickly concluded that five-year-olds possessed no acting talent whatsoever.
Mrs Gottin called herself a stay-at-home mom although she wasn’t at home much. She was a small, shapely woman with stylish hair that she blow-dried at the salon three times a week.
She didn’t cook or clean because work made her perspire, and perspiration made her blow-dried hair curl up at the ends in the ugliest way. She had a coterie of lady friends whom she lunched with on Tuesdays and Fridays, and ‘lunch with the ladies’ was always followed by a ‘quick round of shopping to find out what everyone is wearing’. Mrs Gottin’s closet was overflowing with the sort of clothes that everyone was wearing, the sort of clothes that the fashion magazines at her salon told her she must have.
(Excerpted with permission of Penguin Random House India)
ABOUT THE BOOK
For Mr and Mrs Gottin, parenting is an experiment gone badly wrong. So they look for a school where you can dump your kids and forget about them. They do find such a place and take their child Ferg there. At Horrid High, everything is downright horrid, from Chef Gretta’s cooking to Master Mynus’s truly mental maths classes. But Ferg finds four friends with extraordinary skills, and they make a series of startling discoveries about their horrid school.
Can they survive Horrid High together? And can they stop Principal Perverse’ wicked plans before it’s too late? Open the gates of Horrid High and find out!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Payal’s debut novella, Wisha Wozzariter, won the Crossword Book Award 2013 for Children’s Writing and is also featured in the 101 Indian Children’s Books We Love! compilation by Zubaan Books. She lives in Mumbai with her husband, Kunal; her two daughters, Keya and Nyla; and their three imaginary friends: Klixa, Pallading and Kiki.