Nimesh Ved reivews The Land of The Setting Sun and Other Nature Tales
Arefa Tehsin and Raza H Tehsin
Stories and authors.
Last month a friend shared of selecting books as gifts for younger ones. The month before an acquaintance had mentioned reading being on the rise, especially those aged ten and around. Books like The Land of The Setting Sun and Other Nature Tales surely encourage reading and warrant gifting; not only for the younger ones but also for their parents. It is of interest to those interested in wildlife and will appeal to those not keen on wildlife as well; this proverbial ‘preaching beyond the choir’ is much welcome today.
There is a need to take us closer to wildlife especially today when perhaps more of us are dis-connected from nature than previously in recorded history. Stories harbor immense potential to re-connect us. All the more in a culture like ours where story- telling transcends history and mythology! As Janet Litherland states ‘Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story’.
This is the first book I read by Arefa Tehsin and it leaves me keen to read up others she has penned. Raza H Tehsin I became a fan of – a while ago – after I laid my hands on a bunch of old issues of Journal of Bombay Natural History Society. His notes on wildlife in south Rajasthan I recall reading more than once. They were far livelier and richer than others that gave them company in the, now yellowed with age, pages.
Fiction and natural history show good team-work to entice the reader to move to the next page. They are woven in a reader-friendly fashion and also leave her (or him) happily more aware at the end.
Species like ratel, pangolin, hyena are discussed which makes the book all the more interesting in a scenario of overdose of books on tigers and elephants. Increasingly less and less of us have seen these species or even heard of them.
Two issues I have with books on similar lines are that of the language not being simple enough and text being cluttered with latin (or scientific) names. Both help the reader disconnect. This book carries neither baggage.
In a milieu where hope is a species not frequently sighted each of the eight stories ends on a positive and hopeful note. Espousing hope is pertinent to encourage young ones, and those not so young, to join the journey with nature.
Couple of lines each, on four of the eight stories.
The Six Riddles is a very touching story of a school going boy who has lost his father in recent times. It also makes us aware to the ecology of scorpion. I am, in any case, biased towards grand-mother stories.
The Owl-man Coin tells of how we can teach the younger ones, to let them face the situation and learn on their own – which is real and pertinent learning. And also enough credit is given to the school going boy – ‘he knows this is the best teacher he can get’. If we want to share learning with or pass on messages to younger ones this is how we could do it best. Preaching seldom works.
The One thousandth Cheetah is a fascinating imagination of a cheetah living from the times of Emperor Akbar, when he was one of those captured to help royal hunts, to 1948 when he was shot – the last recorded cheetah in India. It also paints a real picture of the school students by bringing out how two of them do not get along well.
The Steeds of Witches tells us of hyenas, their interactions with families and other species (dholes). I loved how a learning of life seeped within the interactions: ‘all of nature’s creatures are different, and that is the beauty of life’. Book is as pertinent for the parents as it is for their children.