Caravan to Tibet is deeply rooted in my own family history and Debu's journey into Tibet is one that my ancestors actually undertook every year.
I grew up in Almora, a small town in Uttaranchal, but knew that my grandfather came from a place much further north, where life was quite different from our rather staid middle-class existence. Male cousins who undertook the trek to Milam to learn more about their origins returned with enthralling tales. (Girls were considered too delicate to make the trip!) They told us about the nomadic lifestyle, the annual trade expeditions, the explorers Pandit Nain Singh and Kishan Singh Rawat, and other members of our extended family who had mapped Tibet disguised as lamas in the nineteenth century. Some of my aunts, and occasionally my father, would add to that material. Though our connections with that past had become limited, the colourful rugs or chutkas that Debu tries to sell were part of our household furnishings along with the silver-lined wooden bowls Sonam Darka uses in the book. And uncles or cousins from the village would visit as well, occasionally making the journey on horseback.
All these accounts were so fascinating, that when I took up writing as a profession, I just had to put them into a story. 'Caravan to Tibet' first appeared in the children's magazine Target in 1989. Much later, I decided to expand it into an adventure novel, and am very happy that it has found a home with puffin Books.
Certain political events led to the end of the trade expeditions in the 1950s, and the Shauka traders have adopted other professions. However, I do hope I have succeeded in providing a glimpse of those exciting times and that my readers enjoy this adventure story.
Back Of Book
'The thud of hooves hammered at
Debu's ear, the swishing of whips, the
Shrill exclamations of the boys goading
Their steeds on. Slowly, steadily, they
Left one horse behind, then another,
In the last years of the nineteenth century, a caravan of traders sets off from the high hills of Kumaon, India, for Tibet. They traverse dangerous passes and brave blinding snowstorms in order to carry on their traditional trade in the Tibetan markets. Among them is fourteen-year-old Debu's father. Many days later, when the caravan returns, Debu is heartbroken to learn that his father was lost in one of the treacherous passes. Somehow he cannot believe it, and when a Tibetan trader turns up in the local market wearing an amulet remarkably similar to his father's, he is convinced that his father is alive, somewhere in Tibet.
Debu joins the next caravan to Tibet to look for his father, little knowing he is setting out on the most perilous, yet most exciting journey of his life. The adventures follow thick and fast-a forced stay in a monastery with a young lama who takes a fancy to him; his capture by a band of bandits led by the cruel, mysterious Nangbo gifted with magical powers; a stay in the goldfields of Thok Jalong; and finally ending with a heart-pounding, breathtaking horse race.
An action-packed adventure story, Caravan to Tibet teems with memorable characters and fine descriptions of life in the Himalayan kingdoms of Kumaon and Tibet at the turn of the nineteenth century.
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