Author: Deepak Dalal
Set to introduce young readers to a terrain that is largely believed to be elusive and mysterious, Andaman Adventure—The Jarawa is a work of fiction by children’s author Deepak Dalal, known for his conservation-themed books and particularly his Vikram-Aditya series. The Jarawa, the first of a two part story set in the Andaman, also focuses on the young, adventure-loving duo Vikram and Aditya as they navigate a dangerous situation across the islands.
The plot of the book can be described as having two aspects—the first is how Vikram, Aditya and their new friend Chitra, the daughter of an ornithologist who is intimately aware of life in the Andamans, cross paths with some troublemakers. This storyline is the vehicle that carries the book; to escape to safety, the protagonists must travel across different areas of the Andaman Islands and use their knowledge of the biodiversity and intuition. This is what forms the second aspect of the plot—where Dalal strives to introduce the readers to the biodiversity of the Andaman, by taking the characters, particularly Chitra, on a journey across forests, crocodile swamps and even through the territory of the Jarawas, an indigenous Andamanese tribe that has long rejected the ways of modern civilisation and prefers to live largely in isolation.
The second aspect forms the major chunk of the book, immersing the readers to different areas of the islands. In particular, the chapters that focus on Chitra moving through dense forests succeed in making the reader feel as if they are right next to her, hearing the sounds of the monitor lizards scurrying across the trees and detecting from the corner of our eye the movements of crocodiles gliding in the swamp. Equally mesmerising is the chapter when the characters go deep underwater (more details would constitute as spoilers!), where the reader in a way dives alongside them to marvel at the colours of the coral reefs, a precious ecosystem that is a pride of the Andaman. And when the young adventurers emerge from the depths of the ocean, the readers take a deep breath of fresh air with them.
The characters’ encounter with the Jarawa tribe is also an intriguing part of the book. Although short, it tries to provide as clear a picture as possible on how the Jarawa tribe lives, how they hunt and gather for food, what they eat, and how they communicate. The Jarawas and the North Sentinelese—another indigenous Andamanese community that has outright rejected any form of contact with the outside world and has shown that it is willing to defend its territory from anyone who tries to approach them—still remain a mystery to us, despite the world knowing about their existence for decades. So the picture that Dalal provides, even if taken with a pinch of salt, is a welcome glimpse into this isolated world.
The story of Vikram, Aditya and Chitra does not end in this book. In the final chapters, the author teases the reader with clues as to how the Andaman adventure would continue, instilling in the latter a great sense of curiosity of what else about the islands will be explored in the sequel.