Is life getting dull and boring? Pick up the “wickedly funny” book Horrid High: Back to School by Payal Kapadia

It is pretty unusual, but the greatest compliment that I can pay Payal Kapadia is that her new book is truly horrid. Yep, doesn’t sound like great compliment, but it is.
I actually know two Payals who are writers. Payal Dhar is mostly quite serious, taking on dark or difficult subjects with a light hand (read Slightly Burnt, published by Scholastic) if you haven’t yet.

The other, Payal Kapadia, can only be described as wickedly, horridly horrid. For how could a person who looks as chirpy as her, a mother, a perfectly regular looking person, come up with the kind of darkly, wild ideas she does. Like her characters, the one who is so very sad is a teacher called Miss Nottynuf who has been brought up by her parents thinking that she is not enough (yes, that is one of the USPs of the book — each character name has to be read aloud for the fun of it and also for the real meaning of their character.) So this poor teacher, in the middle of her lesson, will trail off, in front of her students, telling them that she is just not good enough and that she’s probably teaching them rubbish. That is just so dark and sad. It made me cry, except that the book is so very funny, that you can’t really cry, because you are laughing within the next minute.

Here’s a taste.

“But enough of these morbid thought! I almost forgot to tell you, the killer ants drop their poop into the pitcher plant.”

Someone went ‘yuck’ at the back of the class.

“Dee-li-cious if you ask me!” said Dr. Bloom, “poop full of mosquito larvae is yummy nutritious and packed with protein!”

Now if this doesn’t make you sit up and take notice, then you’d better get your funny bone checked. It may have a fracture.

So, what book am I talking about, you ask? Ah, see, I was laughing so hard, that I almost forgot to be sensible and give you basic facts:

Kapadia’s sequel to Horrid High is Horrid High Back to School (Puffin). It is wickedly funny and I can see loads of schools wanting to ban the book because underneath all the humour lies numerous kernels of recognisable truths. Like Miss Nottynuf. Can’t you think of a teacher or two who you think should think that they think they haven’t taught their lessons wellynuf ?

Kapadia is a master at puns and mashing up words to make her own fantastical world. My only quarrel, if I MUST have one, is that it all reads very Western. I wish there was a little bit of Indianess to the story as well. I am not saying it should be all Indian and sabhyata and parampara (ooh I love that word…think about it param—paraaaaa! Sounds like a trumpet), but something, even a tiny clue that the author is Indian. Is that fair? You tell me.

And I have to confess that among all of Payal Kapadia’s books, my favourite still is the Crossword Award-winning Wisha Wossariter (Puffin). I promise, this is one that will fix any broken funny bone pronto.

Hindustan Times 20160408 Wickedly Horrid