Hi, I’m Avantika Singh (now 21), better known as General Gosling and was born aboard a Boeing 747 somewhere over the Arabian Sea. This is the story of my and my younger siblings’ lives at Shadow House, where we were brought up by our crazy, zany Nana and his lovely, soon-to-be live-in (unbeknownst to Mama) partner Shabby aunty.
Mama and Papa had ‘dumped’ the four of us (in addition to me there’s Major Duckling, and the twins, Privates Dumpling and Dingaling Enterprises Pvt. Ltd) on Nana, barely as soon as we were able to walk, so they could pursue their careers as hotshot, high-flying diplomats undisturbed; something that had set aglow a red-hot coal of anger and resentment deep inside me.
Nana, an ex-army surgeon, while being very militarily minded, was also completely whacko. He would for example, wake us up every morning by marching outside our bedrooms, playing his trumpet and singing a very scandalous version of the Colonel Bogey march in his rich, deep baritone – and then ensure that we had made our beds pin- perfectly. Life at Shadow House was zany, exasperating, funny and unforgettable, what with Nana’s fixation for his ten Classic and Vintage cars, Duckling’s collections of virtually everything ‘collectible’ and the twins’ notorious business swindles. Then there was our fat and lazy bhutia, De Big Bazooka, the Chakrams and Neerameerabais who basically ran the household and looked after us, our friends, Sahiba and Arun bhaiyya and the mad treasure hunt trips we made to the secret Rainbow Villa.
But then Nana became even more zany and forgetful. For instance, he paid the twins (much to their delight) their pocket money twice over, and ‘got lost’ while driving us to school in the Khatara Neela Bus. Something had started going wrong and it was to turn our lives upside down. Especially since Mama had seen the writing on the wall and had made diabolical plans for him – and for our future. Plans, which I – all of seventeen at the time – was determined to thwart, without foreseeing how terribly things could go pear shaped for everyone. And the danger into which I would put the one person I loved most of all in the entire world: our nutcase Nana.