Why I Chose to Write About Female Spies in My Novel 'Along Came a Spyder'

Along Came a Spyder

Along Came a Spyder

The author's novel, India's first young adult spy fiction, revolves around a 17-year-old Samira Joshi, whose family of RAW agents wants her to be a doctor but her detective instincts want her to be part of a secret sisterhood of teen spies — The Spyders.


Apeksha Rao

The last time that I was wasting time on Twitter, instead of writing, I came across a video that took me by surprise.

It featured a six-year-old tabla player talking about Dadra taal. It wasn’t the young prodigy’s fluency that took me by surprise. It was her gender. That’s right. Her.

Percussion in Indian classical music has always been an all-male bastion, and to see young girls insist on taking their place behind the tabla or mridangam is so heartening. And it’s not just music. A few months ago, our newspapers were flashing headlines about Gunjan Saxena, India’s first female pilot in combat. Again, an exciting tale of girls storming an all-male bastion, smashing the glass ceiling to bits.

For generations, our girls have been considered too delicate to put up with the rigors of any profession that requires a lot of physical effort. Also, how could women protect themselves in dangerous situations? They would have to fall back on their male colleagues for help, wouldn’t they? Or would they?

The so-called weaker sex has proved that it can not only protect itself but also others. From the brave Neerja Bhanot, who saved so many lives before she fell prey to a terrorist’s bullet, to Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena, who flew into war zones to rescue and evacuate more than 900 troops, our girls have shown that they are not princesses waiting patiently to be rescued. They choose to do the rescuing.

Even the world of sports has given our girls kickass role models like the Phogat sisters who changed the face of Indian wrestling, Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana who gave our cricket-crazy nation a chance at salvaging our pride when the men’s team let us down dismally, and the girl that every little girl playing badminton in the tiny lanes of India wants to emulate - P. V. Sindhu. Taxi services run by women are gaining popularity. Women are even driving the metro, and now, the Indian Navy has deployed women combat aviators on warships for the first time.

This just goes to show that the girls of today refuse to be anything less than equal to their male counterparts.

When I started writing my debut novel, Along Came A Spyder, I wanted to write about a group of teenagers who were spies. There is no dearth of hotshot male spies in our literature, but it’s a different story when it comes to female spies.

While there have been notable female spies like Mata Hari, Virginia Hall and Noor Inayat Khan, they were few and far between, and not many know too much about their exploits. In recent years, the only female spy we’ve heard of is the brave woman who was immortalized in the book, Calling Sehmat. This drew me to the idea of creating a sisterhood of strong girls who would turn the world of espionage upside down.

In today’s scenario, a successful female spy needs more than just courage and smarts to go undercover. Apart from a detailed knowledge of surveillance and counter-surveillance, she would need a working knowledge of hacking, as well as explosives. She might have to fight her way out of vulnerable situations. All of which, a girl is fully capable of doing.

Girls now aim for the moon, many of them are lucky to be encouraged to do so. The growing number of girls in fields that were earlier reserved for men shows that there is nothing to hold them back if they set their minds to it.

The writer is the author of 'Along came the spyder' and its prequel 'Itsy Bitsy Spyder'.

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