After twenty years with the Indian navy, Commander Avtar Singh Baath settles down with his family in Port Blair to put his naval experience to good use. He owns a dinghy for hire and a French couple engages his services to go deep-sea diving. On their fifth outing, what should have been another ordinary day turns into a nightmare.
A violent storm—thunder, lightning and rain in sheets—hits them late in the afternoon. It gets dark and in the churning sea the dinghy loses its bearing. The experienced fisherman who is steering the vessel has some idea of the direction in which they should be headed if they are to reach land. Baath, however, decides to rely on the Frenchman’s compass. It proves faulty and they drift towards the open sea.
The rain and the crashing waves destroy what little food the ship had on board, except for two bananas the French refuse to share with the other four on board. All of them are hungry and wet, they bicker and despair. The sole woman on board is very frightened.
Passing ships ignore their plight despite frantic attempts from the drifters to attract their attention. Perhaps they are not spotted or, more likely, they are feared to be pirates who are not unknown in the Andaman waters. On the sixth day, a rescue plane finds them and takes them to dry land. It all ends well.
This is an interesting misadventure, especially in a country not particularly known to be sea-faring. Sudarshan is a fine writer who holds the reader’s attention, but up to a point. Adrift could have made a good short account or a story. Unfortunately, Sudarshan stretches the tale into a full-length book, bringing in extraneous and irrelevant material. Also, we are informed that this is a true story—not some allegory—and yet, incredibly, there is no mention of when this happened. I am also baffled by the price tag the publisher has put on such a slim paperback: four hundred rupees minus one. Inflation is upon us but this is ridiculous.
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