CURRENT ISSUE MAY 13, 2002  

BOOKS: AUTHORSPEAK

ARUNDATI DANDAPANI
Girl Power

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Arundati Dandapani tosses her frizzy mane, rolls her sparkling, saucer-like eyes and speaks without commas. When she's not rattling about adventure, she's seriously mulling over potential plots, jotting down everything in a notepad. The scribbling is the ammunition that will fire her imagination for her next mystery book. "I have this thing for danger," says the 16-year-old debutante author of Adventure on Takladweep (Srishti). "My friends say I take too many risks. Even horror movies don't scare me."

The profusion of soft toys in Dandapani's "messy bedroom" in Delhi's Subroto Park is only a front. Beneath the soft exterior is a fearless explorer who digs danger. "For inspiration, I sometimes walk on the roof of my house," she says. The nocturnal sojourns include walking around the house snooping for ideas. Anything that comes out of these escapades is fodder for yet another mystery saga.

Bright, bubbly and full of beans, the Class XII commerce student in Delhi's Sanskruti School also has a sense of humour, well illustrated in Adventure ... "I wrote the book in four days and three months," says Dandapani, "as a homework assignment first and took three months last year to make it a 175-page book."

Dandapani's father is an Indian Air Force fighter pilot, but her own dreams scale other heights: "I would like to do an MBA. Or maybe become a detective or an investigative journalist." It explains why she keeps a box of newspaper clippings of the city's most sensational crimes. Her nose for news fetched her a job-that of chief editor of the school magazine. "Even on my answer sheets, I try out variations that are entertaining." Her first published story was "The Free Mango" which appeared in a supplement of The Hindu when she was only eight. "I like to bring life to inanimate objects." Dandapani's next book is set in the deserts of Rajasthan. "It will be about a real desert, about cacti and mystery, and not palaces and forts." In her head, she's also plotting to steal the Kohinoor from the Tower of London.

—Methil Renuka

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