Caravan to Tibet by Deepa Agarwal is an adventure story based on the annual journeys of Indian traders in the Himalayan hills to Tibet.
Fourteen-year-old Debu lives with his mother and his younger brother Hayat in Milam, a small village in the Himalayan hills of Kumaon, India.
During the trip to Tibet, that his folks took the previous year, his father goes missing, and the tribesmen were close to believing that he must be dead in the snowstorm. But Debu has reasons to believe that his father is alive – he has seen his father’s amulet on the chain of Sonam Darka, a Tibetan.
With the goal of finding his father, and averting the danger of Trilok, his father’s cousin, remarrying his mother, he pleads with his people to let him accompany them on their trading trip this year.
Kalyan Singh, the leader of the caravan, though reluctant at first, eventually concedes, and thus starts Debu’s preparation. When he cannot find anything to trade there, and he is uncertain if his father’s partnership with Dawa Nangal would be honoured without his father’s piece of the stone of partnership, he sets out to find if it is hidden. Accidentally, he discovers some silver tankas, which he takes with him to trade. He has his pony Bijli for company.
The adventure begins with the slip to near death of Trilok, and a daring save by Debu that endears him to his caravaners. At Tibet, when they go to the Lama to pay their respects, Debu offers the top that Hayat gave him, to the Lama, who is younger to him. Pleased with it, the Lama wants Debu to stay back to be his friend, so the rest of the caravan proceeds without him.
When Debu tries to escape, but gets caught, he confesses his true intentions to the Lama. The understanding Lama, sends him on his journey, with some gifts and escorts. But, that night, robbers attack them, and the escorts flee with Bijli. Debu is taken into custody by the robbers.
The robbers want to kill him, but he makes them believe that the lucky charm that the Lama gave him would do them good as well. Eventually, they let him work for them, and plan to initiate him into robbery.
During a grand raid plan at the Thok Jalong goldfields, Debu is taken along. During the gun fight with the miners, Debu gets seriously injured and faints. He wakes up to the goodwill and care of the childless couple Dolma and Tsering. When he feels strong enough to venture out, he starts his enquiries about his father.
Can he find his missing father? Can he atleast get back to his caravan? How will Debu get back to his mother and Hayat? What happened to Bijli? An unputdownable adventure with twists and turns that ends in a breathtaking horse race, and an equally brilliant masterstroke of an exchange that Debu offers the whimsical Garphan, keep the story alive till the end. Go ahead and enjoy it!
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- A racy-pacy adventure for children. What a taut narration! It kept me glued to the book till I finished it.
- The cultural setting is unique and offers insights into the practices and customs of the Himalayan hillsmen and the Tibetans. It is very interesting to know about rituals like the shair chyun-dunl chyun or the partnership ceremony, about laptches and about their lifestyle.
- The characterization of Debu is true to life – it reflects a fourteen-year-old boy with his fears and limitations as well as moments of courage and brilliance, who undertakes an adventurous trip with a genuine reason.
- The presence of mind of Debu during his exchange offer to the Garphan! Amused me no end.
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- The cover does not do justice to the book. Hardly appealing.
- Though the book is set in Garamond, a favourite font of mine, I found the too closely spaced lines straining on the eye.
Top-class Tibetan Adventure!