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Teen Mutation

On a regular day,Payal Dhar battles evil on Macbeth (that’s what she calls her MacBook),dawdles on the Web and does a good job of figuring out Eternity.

Written by Amrita Dutta |
August 10, 2009 1:20:57 am

On a regular day,Payal Dhar battles evil on Macbeth (that’s what she calls her MacBook),dawdles on the Web and does a good job of figuring out Eternity. It helps that she created it. The 33-year-old is the author of Timeless Land,(Young Zubaan,Rs 295) the final book in the A Shadow in Eternity trilogy,which follows the adventures of young Maya Subramaniam as she is summoned to Eternity and trained to become a Defender of the Sands of Time.

When the Bangalore-based author thought of writing a fantasy series for young Indian adults,she wasn’t interested in “seven-fingered,blue-skinned entities”. Instead,she created Maya,a regular teenager who hates her brother,loves Rahul Dravid and lives in dread of Hindi. That’s till she travels up Portal Road to Halvard Castle for training and finds herself living a double life. By day,she is a young girl in Bangalore and by night,a hero with special powers. Her mentor is Noah Jarryd,an impassive Swede modelled on Star Trek’s Captain Spock.

“Maya was essentially born out of a need to have a ‘real’ female protagonist. As a child I hated how there weren’t any girls that I could identify with in fiction,someone who questioned stereotypes because they didn’t suit her,” says Dhar. The three books in the series,A Shadow in Eternity (2006),The Key of Chaos (2007) and Timeless Land,are fast-paced and have enough twists to keep the reader — and the average teen on a diet of gaming action — hooked. What holds the stories together is Maya,the bumbling teen troubled by her own powers.

Dhar was born in Kolkata and attended schools across India. Delhi was where she lived for 18 years; she studied at Gargi College and played cricket for DU. In between,she also “taught herself Web design”. She “pays the bills” by copyediting for publishing houses and doing freelance assignments for magazines. An avid reader,she has been writing since she was seven. It was when she started reading American Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that she realised “she’d found her genre”.

Fantasy writers take the business of creating alternative worlds seriously and Dhar was sure she didn’t want to “chocolatify” reality. She does a deft job of weaving in bigger issues of tolerance,destiny,sexuality and free will in the plots. What’s the best part about the world she has created? “Eternity allows you to be who you are,far more than is possible in our world,” Dhar says. If the Bangalore traffic gets any worse,she’d like to move there.

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