Tara Tripathi’s adventure in the heart of a jungle, while her father is on a tiger trail experimenting with his photography, is the crux of Ambushed, a story written by Nayanika Mahtani.
This one is not for the weak-hearted, I dare warn you.
Tara, a 10-year old gadget geek, living in the urban landscapes of Mumbai, is forced to take a vacation in Ranibagh, when her father Aarav chooses to track Royal Bengal Tigers in the Himalayan forests, for a voluntary photography project for National Geographic.
Tara’s mother Sushma also accompanies them up to Kimatgarh, the hometown of her husband. But when she gets to know of a man-eating tiger on the prowl, she changes her mind and goes to Delhi to spend time in a spa-resort.
Mr. Saini, the forest ranger, is only too happy to welcome the two guests to Ranibagh, and indulges Tara with chocolates everyday. Tara spends most of her time with her iPad, but is occasionally subject to lectures on Tigers from Aarav.
So, one day, when she finally dares to step out, she stumbles on a poacher’s hideout, gets caught, bound and gagged. She is rescued by a poacher’s 13-year old son Satya, and reaches home with secrets in her heart – her perspective on the forest and her vacation is not the same anymore.
Satya wants her help in reaching out to the activist Raghu Rathore via email to inform him about the poacher gang. Meanwhile Sushma joins her family at Ranibagh due to an unexpected turn of events. But what does Tara find when her exasperated mom recounts an incident involving a co-passenger on the flight?
Inadvertently, Tara gets mixed up in a dangerous network of criminals, who smuggle tiger skin and bones. She has to somehow reach Rathore, who hasn’t responded yet. Can Nandini, his assistant help her do it?
In other events, Bijli, the queen tigress gets caught in a jaw trap and has her leg amputated. What will happen to her three four-month old cubs? Would they have to live a caged life? How can they prepare themselves for a life in the jungle?
So many questions and two children tackling them. Nayanika weaves an enticing adventure for children. Go read it and enjoy.
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- Nayanika Mahtani’s efforts in telling a story in the backdrop of the jungle, with an emphasis on the pressing issue of tiger poaching, is commendable by itself. But what adds to the informative aspect of the story is that, it has by no means reduced the quality of entertainment that it provides.
- Tara’s imagination at every turn of event in the story, as to what she can narrate to her friends, goes a long way in defining her character. Children at her age want peer approval and this sounds so real.
- The urban characters have been developed with such originality that one cannot help but guffaw, when Sushma wants to go shopping in the forest.
- The writing and editing is so taut, that the thrill is maintained through the story.
- I am glad that Tara doesn’t attempt any feat beyond her age or ability to bring the criminals to book.
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- A world that we urban folk scarcely know of exists in the jungle. Continuing modernization and deforestation has resulted in grave consequences –
- There are communities of forest people, not being able to live their natural lives, nor being educated enough to find alternate vocations, who are exploited by the money-minded sharks of the smuggling world, for want of viable options to make their livelihood.
- The animals are deprived of their natural habitat and are also killed for their body parts to cater to the fancies of vain humans.
- This book had me pondering about our education system – we learn about our jungles as pieces of information, rather than know about what they actually are. Our children know of tiger poaching in an objective detached way, rather than in an intimate, personal way that touches their inner sentiments, so that they would want to do something about it, as in the case of Tara. Perhaps such books should be prescribed as additional reading for school children.
- My 11-year old who has been ‘ok’ing several books in the recent past, when asked for her opinion, responded with a ‘Good’ accompanied by an emphatic nod of her head. At bed-time, she wanted to talk about Bijli and her cubs, what amputation means to a wild animal and poaching. As she was rambling, I could see through her eyes that the topic has touched her heart. If one has to measure whether the book has achieved its purpose, well, I have to say ‘yes, for atleast one child’.
Captured by the story!
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Penguin books, in return for an honest review. Thanks Penguin.