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Vijetha Rangabhashyam

By Eva Ibbotson
Macmillan, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 230, Rs. 299.00


The story is set in 1910, where young and orphaned Maia has to voyage all the way to the Amazon from England, to go live with her only family, the Carters. The gruesome depictions of Amazon, of man eating alligators, blood thirsty piranhas and yellow fever inducing mosquitoes by her boarding school peers doesn’t deter Maia from fantasizing about the beautiful journey she is to experience along with her governess, Miss Minton. She dreams about kaleidoscopic macaws, verdure jungles bursting with life, ‘curtains of sweetly scented orchids trailing from the trees’, but most of all, her only surviving family and their twins, and how they would enjoy their time together exploring forests and swimming in rivers.  In the ship, Maia befriends Clovis, a young, nervous lad who is part of a theater company that is also travelling to Manaus to put on a show. Amicable and gentle as she always is, she assures Clovis that all will be well. But little does she know how arduous her life is going to be with her so-called family. On reaching, Maia’s dreams come crumbling down as she discovers how xenophobic her family is; the twins though prim and properly dressed are malicious and the only reason the Carters have taken her in is the small fortune Maia’s parents left behind for her. Their bungalow is immersed in bug spray and they find it beneath them to associate with the local Indians. They even refuse to acclimatize to the native culture and latch on to their ‘Englishness’ by living in closed quarters and consuming canned foods. The tragedy in Maia’s life doesn’t come in the way of her untainted perception of the world and its people, and her irrevocable thirst for exploring and learning. With the help of her strong ally, Miss Minton, she cleverly manages to get out of the house and make friends with the ever so loyal Indians. She is instantly liked by other European-Indian kids, but nobody makes an impact on her like Finn Taverner, a boy who is scouted for by everybody, but most of all, by a pair of private detectives, notoriously known as ‘the crows’. The story meanders through words of magic and adventure, of how Maia and Finn help poor Clovis from his quandary and how they see the true beauty of the Amazon together, braving dangers, on the way to ...

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