New Delhi: It grew over time by joining the dots and the outcome is “Different”. Fifteen-year-old Neeha Gupta’s debut book tells the story of Nicole Grace, the only surviving member of Bridgen — a planet in the neighbouring galaxy of Andromeda — after her father sent her to earth when her planet was on the verge of destruction.
It’s the journey of a “superkid” with a photographic memory from 4 to 14 as she struggles to adjust to earth and contribute to her school and to the planet.
Nicole’s friends Amanda, Sarah and Ayush help her to navigate unchartered territory and, in the process, they save their school from trouble and also give the world a whole new way of intergalactic travel.
Quite a handful, would you say, for a 10th grader at Mumbai’s Jamnabai Narsee International School who’s pledged to donate the proceedings from the sale of the book to Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation.
Not really, because the point Gupta is making is that teenagers aren’t as indifferent as they’re made out to be. They pull up their socks and deliver when it really matters. Also, they love challenges and they care about right and wrong.
“Initially it was about joining the dots on the plot — so whenever I got an idea, I’d write it down. Later, I would develop those ideas whenever I had the time. But, during the later stages of the book, which are the most difficult parts to complete, I made sure to reach a word limit every day. Discipline actually helped me finish my book,” Gupta told IANS in an interview.
To backtrack a bit, how did the book come about?
“I have always been an avid reader, and my love for reading translated into a desire to write. In my 7th grade, I began to blog. As I grew up, I realised I grew out of that story too! Then I thought to myself, that a book would actually just be a really large blog! So, in my 9th grade summer break, an idea came to me, that got me all excited — about how an alien would adjust to high school. I made up my mind to complete the story and began writing,” Gupta explained.
The effort has won her praise from her school head, Jasmine Madhani.
“The title is almost eponymous because ‘Different’ is a word one could use to describe the author. With a perfect 6.0 in her English checkpoint exam in the 8th grade, Neeha has always had a way with words. Adjectives like ‘sincere’, ‘conscientious’ and ‘diligent’ have been part of her report cards right from the time she entered our school as a child. With a keen proclivity for the sport of shooting, Neeha is not one to waste time,” Madhani writes in the foreword.
Is there another book on the cards?
“Haven’t really thought of another book yet. But when I met Mr. Shashi Tharoor, he told me that I must keep writing. So if the time and idea seem right, I will definitely take up the challenge!
“As of now, I’m focusing on my upcoming 10th board examinations. Some day, I wish to win an Olympic medal for India in pistol shooting,” she added rather modestly.
Gupta had called on Satyarthi during a visit to the national capital earlier this month and found the experience “very humbling”.
“Meeting Satyarthi Sir was very humbling. I was speechless for most part — and sir realised how quiet I was. He even mentioned that I must talk much more. Truth is that I’m extremely honoured to be the brand ambassador of Sir Kailash Satyarthi’s Children’s Foundation via the 100 million for 100 million campaign. I really look forward to contributing more and actively taking up my responsibility. Other than contributing proceeds from the sale of my book, I also look forward to mobilising more youngsters, wherever I go with my book,” Gupta said.
Not surprisingly, the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself as well as the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Fund have called Gupta a “Young change-maker” on the social media.