Verdict: This is one for children and adults alike!
TTS Rating: 3.5/5
Publisher: Tarini Publishing
Price: INR 195
Anirudh’s Dream is the first in a two part series called Sahyadri Adventures, by adventurer and children’s writer, Deepak Dalal. Vikram and Aditya, the key protagonists in Deepak’s previous novels (Ranthambore Adventures, Ladakh Adventures etc.), along with Chitra, are joined by Anirudh on this adventure in the Sahiyadris. Anirudh is a reserved and sensitive boy and is the son of Commander Dongre. He lives on the sprawling National Defence Academy in Pune. He has a love for horses and is afraid of the water for reasons that he doesn’t understand.
The novel starts off at a slow pace, where Deepak introduces you to the characters. The young protagonists go sailing in the rapids and begin a trek to the Sahyadris’ with the mysterious Salim. The dialogues reflect the banter of adolescent lives today. It reminds the reader of the characters in the Famous Five and Hardy Boys series that one would read as a child. The pace of the narrative accelerates with a chase sequence in the Sahyadris, when an armed gang of thugs want to get even with the group of friends. After a bizarre fall, Anirudh goes into coma. The reader slips with him into a dream sequence where he is Irfan, a good natured lad, in early 19th Century in Bombay, a boy who lives in an Englishman’s house with his father, Aziz, the coachman. Like Anirudh, Irfan loves horses and is afraid of the water.
Another adventure begins in the 1850s where Irfan with his friends Rustom, Mario and Ajit, take on a thieving Englishman, a crook who has burgled India off her many riches, and is about to leave the country. There is also a connection to a deep secret from the past which makes Irfan and Aziz the Englishman’s sworn enemies. Deepak brings in a balanced view of history, one where Irfan is educated and is well cared for by a kind gentleman, Mr Brown and his family, and is supported by Inspector Forjett, the good cop, who is their accomplice in many adventures.
Deepak’s writing is very visual, and is infused with a dose of history and culture of the 1850’s. The book is certainly well researched and this comes across in Deepak’s gripping narrative. The reader will be awed reading about how Bombay was in the 1850’s – in its heartland there were forests where panthers roamed, the sea flooded the channels that separated the seven islands, that Mahim and beyond was a swamp, and what is today the epicentre of the Finance and Banking, there stood an actual Fort guarded by cannons that bristled from black ramparts-a history lesson for city slickers. The biggest takeaway is the message in the novel- a group of Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Parsi boys taking on the might of our former Imperial masters. A fact which we, the suckers for material desires and lifestyle of the West, in a fight to survive and thrive, in an India divided by caste, religion and vote bank politics, mustn’t forget in a hurry.
Read it also for Deepak’s trademark simplicity of his characters (a simplicity he personifies), as he writes with refreshing candour. His writing reflects a love for nature, and a spirit of adventure. Importantly, he tries to do all of this with stories set in India, with Indian characters, which makes his books all the more special, being his dream of offering Indian children stories about their own people, in our beautiful country. Meanwhile, one can hope that someone will adapt this book into a movie or a television series!