Vikram Singh and Aditya Khan go to the Andaman Islands for their holidays, where they join Chitra, the daughter of an ornithologist and wildlife conservator. One day, the three of them along with Alex, the Burmese boatman of the ornithologist, set out on an apparently harmless trip up Crocodile Creek to see crocodiles. They have a great time sighting crocodiles in the night. However, on their way back, they stumble upon a gang of shady characters involved in an arms smuggling operation. While two of them (Vikram and Alex, the boatman) are kept captive by the group, the other two (Chitra and Aditya) manage to escape, and make a bid to reach safety and notify authorities about the goings-on in the forest. What ensues is a thrilling chase through the hotspots of the island’s wildlife, the highlight of which is an encounter with the Jarawa, one of the indigenous tribes of the Andaman Islands.
The book starts off as a letter written to Vikram by his father, describing the collection of islands of the Andamans, their geography, the indigenous inhabitants, namely, the Sentinelese and the Jarawa. The impact of modern civilization on the fauna of the island, specifically the edible-nest swiftlet, and on the Jarawa tribe are also touched upon by the author. This letter, which opens up the Andaman Islands to the reader in a captivating way, sets the tone for the rest of the book. Deepak Dalal, a wildlife writer, weaves an adventure story around the Islands and the things that characterize the place without making the story seem contrived. The information is objective and authentic, without being condescending or judgmental.
Vikram, Aditya and Chitra are typical young adults – the cautious Vikram, the tall and strong-willed Aditya and the equally strong-willed Chitra, who is always ready to take a risk. The characterizations are sort of sketchy and much is left to the imagination of the readers.
The language and the style of narration are commendable. On the surface, this is an adventure story, but fundamentally it is a wildlife book that is not pedantic. The travel up Crocodile Creek, the wading through mangroves, the running through the dense tropical vegetation, the exploration of the swiftlet caves and the deep-sea diving experiences all come alive in the author’s narration.
This book is part of a series of wildlife adventures featuring the two friends, Vikram and Aditya. I strongly recommend it for readers of all ages and it is sure to serve as an useful resource on wildlife and nature for schools and other educational institutions.
By KS Selvakumar
Author: Deepak Dalal
Publisher: Grey Oak/Westland, 2000
Subject category: Fiction/Contemporary/Adventure
Age group: 9+