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The games that teenagers play

Arjun Krishna Lal, author of Wicked Games

Arjun Krishna Lal, author of Wicked Games   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Young author Arjun Krishna Lal, a native of the city, finds his own life as a ‘resettled NRI’, the inspiration for his novel Wicked Games

It’s easy enough to draw parallels between 18-year-old author Arjun Krishna Lal and his alter ego, Amit Pillai, the protagonist of his second novel Wicked Games (published by Inked, an imprint of Penguin, Rs. 250). Both the teenagers spent their formative years in Cedar Rapids, a small Midwestern town in the United States, and when they are on the brink of adulthood, they both find themselves back in their native Kerala.

These “soft boys” both navigate life and identity in small town India (what’s obviously, Thiruvananthapuram in the novel), albeit in a posh international school, loud music, plush pockets, American accents et al. So easy, in fact, that it’s a struggle – on the phone – not to refer to Arjun as Amit and vice versa!

Then again, while young Arjun seems to have reconciled himself to a new way of life here, finding his feet by giving expression to his feelings and experiences with words, Amit struggles with love and identity and quickly gets caught up in a rollercoaster of emotions, which rocks the foundation of his already fragile existence.

“Indeed. Wicked Games is inspired by a lot of my personal experiences after I came back to India, magnified of course, in print. These experiences needed sharing and they are what inspired me to become a writer,” says Arjun, a native of the city. Of late, there have been umpteen novels about teenage life in India. But what makes this novel different, explains Arjun, is the setting, “the faux Americana bubble that is an international school”.“This particular environment is as complex as it is multifaceted. Most of my classmates – and Amit’s – grew up abroad and are non-resident Indian’s (NRIs), who have resettled in Kerala. It’s a sort of a sub-culture, where Western ideals and ideas go head to head with their Indian way of life and identity,” says Arjun.

Ah! The ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) phenomenon?

“No; not confused as such, but a bit limited, in the sense that their interactions with the outside world are rather restricted and coloured by the comforts of the bubble. However, being a teenager in Thiruvananthapuram is surprisingly a lot like it is in the States. Like myself, many of my friends and acquaintances who study in international schools are not oblivious to the world around us. For one, most of us are fluent in Malayalam or other regional languages,” adds Arjun.

That’s why Wicked Games is not a morality tale, stresses the young author. “It’s a tale of identity, rather. What I am trying to say is that you can’t arbitrarily judge a person based on preconceived notions. All teenagers are not layabouts. As the novel shows, everyone has a reason to do the things they do. Tobin, one of the characters in the novel, for example, first comes across as superficial – a jerk. But further into the story, you realise that he’s like that because he is dealing with a lot of personal issues. Even Amit, the protagonist, for all his integrity, is not a completely good person and has shades of grey,” explains Arjun, who is now pursuing his undergraduate degree in journalism in Bangalore.

“I was looking at a career in the civil service before turning writer. Actually, writing sort of came out of the blue. Now, I aim to write at least one novel a year,” he says.

This sci-fi and fantasy fan, who finds literary inspiration in authors of the likes of Orhan Pamuk, Guy Gavriel Kay, Paulo Coelho, and Stephen Baxter, has already authored a fantasy novel Anointed By The Moon.

“At my request, my publishers have sent Wicked Games to Pamuk to review!” says Arjun, on a high note, before he signs off.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 10:56:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/arjun-krishna-lal-finds-his-own-life-the-inspiration-for-his-novel-wicked-games/article6334913.ece

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