Outlaw in India
Outlaw in India
by Philip Roy
- July 2012
- ISBN 978-1-55380-177-1
- ebook ISBN 978-1-55380-178-8
- 5-1/4″ x 7-5/8″ Trade Paperback, 220 pp
- Young Adult Novel
In Outlaw in India, the fifth volume in the best-selling Submarine Outlaw series, Alfred and his crew of Seaweed the seagull and Hollie the dog begin their exploration of India with a piece of bad luck when they surface behind a frigate and bring the wrath of the Indian navy down upon them. After a near fatal encounter off Kochi, Alfred befriends a ten-year-old homeless and illiterate but highly intelligent boy, and is given the chance to explore the changing face of India through the eyes of one of its “untouchables.” Discovering India to be an ancient land filled with extremes of beauty, wealth, tradition and danger, Alfred is tricked into making an overland pilgrimage to Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest cities. Along the journey he witnesses practices which deny human equality and dignity, but also happy events that celebrate the spirit of new beginnings, as personified in Ganesh, the Hindu god with four arms and the head of an elephant. Alfred cannot help falling in love with India, the most beautiful place he has ever seen. And for the first time, he leaves a part of himself behind.
I WENT TO INDIA TO EXPLORE. I wasn’t looking for anything
in particular, and I certainly wasn’t looking for trouble, I just
wanted to explore. Some of my discoveries were expected: the
heat, ancient ruins, dangerous snakes and millions of people.
But there were also surprises—both good and bad. And then
there were a few things that seemed to find me, as if they had
been just waiting for me to show up.
And of course I did.
We were sitting in the water off Kochi, in the Arabian Sea. It
was late morning; the sun was high. I couldn’t see it through
the periscope but it was shining on the water. There were so
many vessels in the harbour it was hard to believe. My radar
screen was crowded with blinking lights. We had just come
from the Pacific where we could sail for days and days without
seeing a single ship. Here it looked as though we had just
stumbled into a bee’s nest. There was a naval base here too,
according to my guide book, but I couldn’t see it. I wondered
if the Indian navy had submarines.
We had been at sea for weeks now and were anxious to get
out and stretch our legs and explore. If you stay cooped up
too long you go crazy. But first we needed to hide the sub.
Seaweed was already out, hanging around with other seagulls
no doubt, and eating dead things. Hollie’s nose was twitching,
sniffing the smells of India that had seeped in when the
hatch was open. He wanted out.
“Just a bit longer, Hollie. We have to find a place to hide
He looked at me and sighed. I steered into the harbour.
Normally we would enter a harbour like this only at night, but
with so many vessels who would notice the periscope of a small
submarine? Who would be watching with sonar? It would
be like trying to find a pear in a barrel of apples—no one.
I had never seen so many ships in one harbour before. It
was incredible. There were freighters, tankers, barges, tugboats,
Chinese junks, ferries, giant cruise ships, small cruise ships,
sailboats, fishing trawlers, fishing boats, dories—everything
but navy ships. Where were the navy ships?
The harbour was split into channels, like fingers of the sea,
and was a little confusing. The naval base must have been
down one of those channels. Through the periscope I caught
a glimpse of the Chinese fishing nets Kochi was famous for.
They looked awesome. They were made of teak and bamboo
poles and the nets hung over the water like giant spider webs.
They were balanced so evenly it took only a few men to dip
them into the sea and pull them out with fish. It was an ancient
fishing method but was still used today because it
worked so well.
I wanted to take pictures to show my grandfather, and then
ask him why he didn’t fish like that back in Newfoundland.
My grandfather didn’t like trying new things, which was why
I liked showing him new things. I liked to challenge him. He’d
make a face like a prune and say something like, “Don’t fix it
if it isn’t broken.” But I wished he could see these nets because
I knew they would really interest him.
The oldest part of Kochi seemed a good place to hide. It was
a seaport from the days of wooden sailing ships. There were
ancient warehouses hanging over the water, and some were
crooked and falling over. Broken piers stuck out of the water
like reeds in a river. Some were broken in half like broken teeth.
This part of the seaport had been abandoned a long time ago.
Today all merchandise is carried in metal containers on giant
ships that are loaded and unloaded by monstrous cranes in
concrete terminals. When I turned the periscope around I
could see the cranes miles across the harbour. Old Kochi was
a ghost town now—a perfect place to hide a submarine.
I steered into a channel where the old warehouses were most
rundown, and cruised along on battery power until I saw one
where I thought maybe we could hide inside. The warehouse
had a small boathouse at the very end of it, like a shack on the
side of a cottage, and there was just enough clearance under
water—about fifteen feet—for us to come inside. But I’d have
to be extremely careful to not bump the poles or the boathouse
would tumble down around us and maybe take the whole
warehouse with it.
I was just about to steer in when I heard a beep on the radar.
Another vessel was coming into the channel. I turned the
periscope around and saw a small powered boat, possibly a
coast guard vessel, coming in our direction. Shoot! I hesitated.
Should we stay or should we go? Did they know we were here?
Either it was a coincidence or they were investigating something
they had picked up on radar but couldn’t identify—us.
I shut off our radar so we would stop bouncing sound waves
off them, which was one way they would find us for sure if
they had sophisticated listening equipment, which they might
have if they were the coastguard. I kept our sonar on. It was unlikely
such a small boat would have sonar. I pulled the periscope
down, let water into the tanks and submerged gently.
We couldn’t submerge much; the channel was only seventyfive
feet deep. As we went down, I had to decide whether to
sit still and let them pass over us, or take off. The problem
with decisions like this is that there’s little time to think; you
have to choose quickly.
I put my hand on the battery switch and hesitated. The
boat approached. Were they slowing down? If they slowed
down we would definitely take off. No, they didn’t slow down.
So we stayed. They went over us and kept on going. Whew!
Then, when they reached a bridge, about half a mile down
the channel, they turned around and started back. Rats! That
wasn’t good. Now I had that uneasy feeling in the pit of my
stomach that said, “Get the heck out of here!”
So I did. I cranked up the batteries all the way and motored
to the end of the channel as fast as the sub would go on electric
power, turned to port and headed out to sea. I watched
the sonar screen to see if they would follow us. They did, although
they didn’t ride right above us, which told me that
they knew we were here but couldn’t locate us exactly. Maybe
somebody had spotted us and reported us. That had happened
many times before in Newfoundland.
We followed the ocean floor down to two hundred feet as
we motored out to sea. It took awhile, and the coastguard
boat followed us the whole way. Then I levelled off and turned
to starboard. The coastguard kept going straight. Yes! We had
lost them. They had never really known where we were; they
had been just guessing. But we couldn’t leave yet. We had to
go back for Seaweed. I figured we could sneak in at night,
when we’d look no different on radar from any sailboat. In
the meantime, we could hide offshore by sailing directly beneath
a slowly passing freighter, so as to appear as one vessel
on sonar and radar. It was a great way to be invisible, though it
was noisy underneath a ship’s engines. We had done it before.
It didn’t take long to find a freighter. I could tell what kind
of ship it was even without seeing it, by its shape on the sonar
screen. Tankers were easiest to identify because they were
so big. Freighters had a sharper bow and flatter stern, as a
rule, although the bigger the ship, the broader the bow. Sometimes
older or smaller freighters had a pointed stern. This one
was not very big and was only cutting twelve knots, which was
pretty easy to follow on battery power. I figured we’d ride
beneath her for ten miles or so, then find another freighter
going in the opposite direction and follow her back. When it
turned dark, we’d sneak into the harbour. Hollie took a deep
breath and sighed.
“I’m sorry, Hollie. I’m trying. We really don’t want to get
We chased the small freighter for a few miles until we were
right underneath her, then we came up to just twenty feet beneath
her keel. Her engines were pretty loud. Suddenly she
did something very strange. She turned sharply to port. That
was odd. Why would she do that? Was she trying to avoid
something in the water? Sonar didn’t reveal anything in her
path. And then, she turned again, to starboard. What was
going on? Did she know we were here? I doubted it.
I was so curious I decided to drop behind, surface to periscope
depth and take a peek. I dropped back a few hundred
feet, came up, raised the periscope and looked through it. As
my eyes adjusted to the light in the periscope, I got a terrible
shock. The ship was battleship grey. She was carrying guns.
She wasn’t a freighter at all, she was a frigate, a navy frigate.
We were tailing a naval ship!
Although I knew we were in big trouble I didn’t quite grasp
how bad it was until some sailors on the stern shot something
out of a small tube-like cannon towards us. At first I thought
it was just a flare—a warning—because it went through the
air in an arc like a flare. But there was no coloured streak.
Suddenly I realized what it was even before it hit the water. It
was a depth charge.
I grabbed him, hit the dive switch and ran for my hanging
cot. I threw myself on the bed with Hollie against my stomach
just as the depth charge exploded. It blew up beneath us.
It was like getting kicked by a horse. My teeth bit into my
tongue. The blast hurt my ears, and there were strange sounds
in the water following it. We were diving now. I held onto
Hollie tightly and covered his ears. I wished I could have covered
mine, because a second blast exploded right outside the
hull. And even though my eyes were shut, I saw red. It blasted
my ears so violently they started ringing and wouldn’t stop. It
was like being inside a thunder clap. The lights went out in
the sub. The explosion knocked the power out completely.
Everything went dark. And we were going down.
Philip Roy’s Submarine Outlaw Series:
Reviews & Awards:
Selected for the spring 2013 edition of Best Books for Kids and Teens.
“Roy’s rich use of simile will appeal to the older reader, while his concise style allows this novel to be accessible to the 9- to12-year-old reader. The overall tone is thoughtful and philosophical without dragging the reader too deeply into the challenges that plague India as a developing nation. A middle school with a Humanities curriculum would be well served to add this title to a list of recommended reads in multicultural literature.”
— Jessica Levitt, The Deakin Review of Children’s Literature
“This fifth volume is the best ‘Submarine Outlaw’ book yet. It’s a fast-paced, fun read with interesting themes that will appeal to boys and to anyone who likes travel and adventure.”
— Canadian Review of Materials
“…Perhaps the most imposing character in Outlaw in India is not a character at all. It is India. The country, as Alfred experiences it, is a living entity, a complicated being of the expected and the surprising. …The Submarine Outlaw books will continue to garner fans of both genders for its great characters and adventure with a frisson of the impossible and the hope for everything working out well. Readers will continue to find all that here in Outlaw in India, fresh and engrossing, just as each new book in the series has offered.”
— CanLit for Little Canadians