Poile Sengupta's new novel explores the complexities of growing up, growing apart

Playwright and writer Poile Sengupta is out with her latest ‘crossover’ novel A Higgledy Piggledy Growing Up, a blend of humour, romance and social awareness
Playwright and writer Poile Sengupta.
Playwright and writer Poile Sengupta.

BENGALURU: Be it the relatable and nerdy wizard Harry Potter or the fierce and likeable Percy Jackson, time and again literature has shown that young-adult stories can cross boundaries and become favourites of an entire generation of adults. Poile Sengupta’s latest ‘crossover’ novel, A Higgledy Piggledy Growing Up, introduces Neel, a 14-year-old school boy, whose ordinary life is overtaken by extraordinary events.

“I am used to going into someone else’s mind and thinking like that person. That is how Neel happened; he just appeared. I got into Neel’s mind as I saw it,” reflects Sengupta, wife of former secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Abhijit Sengupta.

Calling it a story of ‘growing up and of growing apart’, Sengupta felt the urge about four years ago to write a book that would appeal to both young adults and older readers – a crossover novel. “I have always wanted to write in another voice. It’s more exciting to be somebody else.

When I was growing up as a girl, I found that boys had more fun, or at least I thought they had more fun. So I wished I could be a boy. Girls of my generation were confined, but boys seemed to be doing everything. I wished I was allowed to be mischievous. So being Neel is much more exciting than being me,” she says, while launching the book in the city recently.

Book cover image
Book cover image

Sengupta’s experience as a magazine columnist where she wrote in the voice of a 10-year-old boy for three decades along with her experience as an educator and playwright has profoundly influenced her writing. “I have always felt that writing for children is important, particularly for those crossing into adulthood. The teen years are difficult and can be bewildering. So literature that helps them, but is not preachy or judgmental, might make a great difference to them,” she says.

Not being able to read for the last decade and more owing to an impairment in her central vision, she finds access to the changing digital literature world challenging. Sengupta expresses her confusion about the categorisation of young adult literature, hoping that her books reach a larger audience as there is a ‘lot in the book that parents, grandparents, and teachers can absorb’.

“I don’t know who the young adult is, to be honest. I know young adults broadly refer to teens, but there is a big difference between a 13 and 18-year-old,” observes Sengupta. “Another issue is that when people hear ‘children’s book,’ they think it’s only for kids and get it for their niece or nephew. When I was young, I read Arthur Conan Doyle, and that wasn’t just for kids. This age categorisation is a bit irksome. I know it’s convenient, but I’m not sure it can be strictly defined.”

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The New Indian Express