Author: Ratnadip Acharya
Publisher: Aksora Publications LLP
I am not a history fanatic but when told in an interesting way, I can be all ears. When Ratnadip sir’s Andaman was released, I was a bit sceptical about picking it up owing to the length and the genre. Blimey! It was the right decision to pick this one. Yet again, the illusion specialist uses his wit and logic to create a mystery using symbols and missing pieces of the puzzle. Like The Speaking Stone, this time, Andaman brings you a spirit that tries to communicate with the protagonist. No, not in reality but in a parallel world.
Andaman, the title, acts as a homonym, for it forms the setting of the story and it’s also the name of the main character. In a quest to get answers about the symbols that haunt Andaman, he delves deeper into the past when the country was fighting tooth and nail for its freedom. It was then that several people sacrificed their lives and were banished from their homeland to Kaala Pani. When Andaman’s fate takes him to Cellular Jail, he is greeted by the mysterious symbols and several other carvings on the wall of a prison. He cannot argue the toss that those symbols are trying to tell him something. As he tries to decipher them and spends time inside the cave, alone, he is able to come to terms with India’s history. Amidst an escape plan, brutal physical and emotional torture and unheard voices, Andaman becomes the spokesperson of those who gave their lives for the country.
Touching upon the themes of selflessness and patriotism, Ratnadip sir has meticulously crafted the plot, not missing any ounce of detail. The simple (but sometimes verbose) narrative makes it a joyride till the very end. Working on two different timelines is especially difficult. But the seamless merge in Andaman is praiseworthy. I loved the chapter when Andaman is injected with a cocktail of hints that drive him crazy. His journey through the two timelines, one in which he is an interested bystander and the other where he is a purposeful survivor, is something to look out for. Another round of proofreading would just act like a cherry on the cake! Using several oxymorons and vivid imagery that appeals to the senses, each chapter transports the readers to the very location where it takes place. The stench of old blood and sweat, the tremor in the eyes of the prisoners and the pain of being gagged- all this can be felt and experienced because of the description.
Andaman is different and delightful. This cockeyed and suspenseful exploration of the secrets hidden within the cells in the Cellular Jail is worth every penny.
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