Poile Sengupta's new book delves into adolescence and family dynamics

The latest book from author Poile Sengupta’s desk explores adolescence along with other themes
Poile Sengupta
Poile Sengupta

CHENNAI : There is magic in the books that take us through memory lane, words strung together in a bid to make us relive our sweetest childhood memories. Poile Sengupta’s new release, A Higgledy Piggledy Growing Up, does exactly that. Following the life of Neel, a fourteen-year-old schoolboy, the book explores the intricacies of adolescence and multi-generational family dynamics, laced with themes of patriotism, communal hatred, unity, and friendship.

A playwright, poet, novelist, and short fiction writer, Poile has been weaving magic with words for five decades across all genres of writing. The inspiration for this book, she shares, stemmed from her experiences as a writer and educator. Speaking about her literary influences, Poile mentions that her writing is influenced by more things than books. “I am influenced by my family, my neighbourhood, the street vendors, the daily news, and, of course, by books,” she remarks. It is this ability to extract inspiration from the mundane that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, and Poile does that incredibly well.

Writing from the perspective of a young boy posed a unique challenge for Poile. “The writing process is always very mysterious. For this book, the challenge was to become Neel, a 13 and 3/4-year-old boy. I had to leave myself behind. But that is not always easy,” she reflects. This transformation required Poile to immerse herself fully into Neel’s world to authentically capture his voice and experiences. “The most difficult category to write for is the very young who want fun and a good story. This is the age group where the illustrator is perhaps more important than the writer,” she notes. Capturing the essence of the book, the cover is designed and illustrated by Sanjoli C and Stuti Sen.

Reflecting on the role of literature in addressing sensitive issues, Poile expresses a poignant shift in her views. “I used to think that books that speak of people trying to understand each other and accept others’ differences would heal the world. I am not very sure about this now,” she shares. However, balancing humour with serious themes like communal hatred and patriotism can be a delicate task. Poile candidly admits, “I don’t know how I did it. It just happened. As I said, the writing process is mysterious.” This organic approach to writing allows her stories to naturally blend lighthearted moments with deeper, more thought-provoking issues.

With regards to the themes delicately laced into the story, Poile prefers to leave the interpretation to her readers. “I myself don’t have any messages to give. I leave it to the readers to gather what they want,” she says. This open-ended approach invites readers to draw their own conclusions and engage more deeply with the story.

While Poile is already working on another book, she confirms that it will not be a sequel to Neel’s story.

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Price: Rs 250

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The New Indian Express