Deeti has this vision of a ship, and a premonition that it will play a role in her life in times to come. How can a simple native woman, bound to her lands and her husband forever suddenly find herself on a ship is something she cannot envision. All she does is to tend to her small farm while her husband works in the opium factory.
Zachary has signed on as a cabin boy but finds himself rising through the ranks rapidly till he is the 2nd mate to the captain. He just wants to do his job honestly and make it in life. He is just a man of mixed colour from Baltimore, but finds himself stamped as a white gentleman.
Paulette is the daughter of a deceased Botanist living on charity. Her benefactors dont know that she is more native than the natives and has a brother too.
Pandit Nob Kissin Pandey is an accountant with a mission. He wants to recreate the world of Krishna and has already sighted a person who is the latest avatar of the Lord.
Raja Neel is lord of all he surveys, but he know how precarious his financial position is. What he does not know is the devious means that can easily be used against him to reduce him to the lowest form of human existence.
Mr. Burnham himself indirectly controlling the destiny of all these people though he is just a merchant who wants to makes profit.
How all these people, including Kalua, Heeru, Munia, Serang Ali, Jodu and many others find themselves abroad the Ibis is what constitues the story.
It is the first in the series of a promised trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. In this novel, he traces the background of his characters and gives us a hint of what to expect in future.
Amitav paints an unhurried picture of his characters, to make us understand them all the better. We are sent back to the times when British were the masters of the world, thanks to their understanding of the seas. However, it is their cunning nature and adaptability that makes them win the game, again and again. They knew how to set up ruses and use their trump cards. They knew how to make a person feel like a king and then .. suddenly throw him down into the deep abyss of sub-human existence.
They knew how to manipulate the seas and the people.
What do I say about the style of Amitav Ghosh. That is smooth and fine as sweet wine? That there is never an extra word, nor a word less? That he uses the language with the finesse of a master? That he is a devious devilish craftsman who can make us see what he sees?
The book - unputdownable. The next in the series - eagerly awaited.