On Nature’s trail
The authors pack interesting natural history in this collection of stories.
Nobel Laureate Konrad Lorenz, the foremost behavioural scientist of our time, once wrote that the only way to educate adults on conservation is to teach them as children. And there is no better way to explain to kids the mysteries and interconnections in Nature than through short stories. That is precisely what the two Udaipur-based naturalists, Arefa Tehsin and Raza Tehsin, have done through this collection of eight nature-related stories.
Fiction based on wildlife is a fascinating genre and there are not many in India writing in that field, particularly for children. Ruskin Bond comes to mind first. Then there is Nirmal Ghosh of Lord of the Grassland fame, a touching story about an elephant that grows up on the banks of the Bramhaputra. The important point in such fiction is to be authentic on details regarding habitat and behaviour of the creatures around which the stories are woven. Michael Creighton’sCongo, for instance, was based on meticulous research about rainforests and primates.
This book is flawless in that respect. In one story, the angels send a tortoise as a messenger to a pangolin which is sleeping “with his head between his forelegs and his tail firmly folded over”; exactly the position these elusive creatures take while resting in their warrens. Each tale is around one creature, not the iconic animals of our forests like elephant or tiger but lesser known ones like the hyena and the owl. Ratels, wild dogs and langurs appear too. Not just mammals but you have lesser life forms like dung beetles and scorpions appearing as characters.
The authors take a peek into history and write about cheetahs in Mughal palaces and touch upon extinction. They pack interesting natural history information in their narration. The story on scorpions, for instance, gives the whole life cycle of these creatures and incidentally introduces Save Our Stings (SOS), which is an organisation to conserve insects. The tale about the Great-horned owl deals imaginatively with the use of these birds in occult practices and illegal trade.
The idea is to produce sensitivity for the external world and all the creatures that live in it. It is tempting to look for a time when such books will be written in regional languages too. If you consider the incredible biodiversity of India, there will be no dearth of subjects for such stories.
The Land of the Setting Sun & Other Nature Tales; Arefa Tehsin and Raza H.Tehsin, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Rs.225.