New Book Release – Steed of the Jungle God

Hot from the press – Steed of the Jungle God!

Fondly known as the Vasco de Gama of Mewar forests, the veteran naturalist Dr. Raza Tehsin recounts his encounters with the mysterious, which can be attributed to ghosts and spirits, through his 70+ years of jungle wanderings, and his quest for rational explanations behind these phenomena.

A brief as per the back cover: 

How would you feel if there is a sound of anklets following you in the dark wilderness? What would you do if there is an attacking panther a few feet away and you are sitting with an empty rifle? How would you react when you’ve seen someone commit suicide in a well and you hear at night sounds of well’s Persian wheel revolving when the wheel is still? 

How does one define the real-life encounters compiled in this book as jungle stories? They surely make for an interesting read, offer a peep into the times when man and animal were trying to co-exist, with perhaps man becoming more resourceful even though remaining in the awe of the mesmerising vast thick greens inhabited by tigers, panthers and others of their kith and kin. But the stories here are not only a chronicle of adventure encounters that offer a peen into the times, peoples and wildlife of Mewar. A potent theme of busting many a myth pertaining to the ideas of ghost sightings by the layman in the villages and the jungles also runs parallel thus adding new twists, some light and some not-so-light, to the narrative. It also provides a glimpse into the psychology of why many hunters ended up being distinguished conservationists.

The book available here:

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Published by: National Book Trust

Illustrations by: Sumit and Sonal 


​The master storyteller Ruskin Bond launches Steed of the Jungle God against the backdrop of the historical Victoria Memorial in Kolkata!





Fondly known as the Vasco da Gama of Udaipur jungles, Raza H. Tehsin is the initiator of Wildlife conservation movement in Southern Rajasthan. He has been instrumental in the establishment of game sanctuaries like Phulwari-Ki-Nal, Sitamata & Sajjangarh, has reported for the first time around 14 species from this region as well as India, worked for decades in raising public awareness about the issues of nature protection and led many a public spirited conservation campaigns. Author of more than 100 research notes and papers in international and national journals and magazines, he has co-authored books with Arefa Tehsin like Tales from the WildThe Land of the Setting Sun and Other Nature Tales and Do Tigers Drink Blood and 13 Other Mysteries of Nature. A member of various prestigious Wildlife and Natural History societies and chapters, Raza was also the Member, Wildlife Advisory Board, Govt. of Raj. and the Hon. Wildlife Warden of Udaipur district for 33 years.


Arefa was shortlisted for The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017 for her book Wild in the Backyard.  Her picture book The Elephant Bird was read at 3200+ locations in India from the slums to the Presidential library on the International Literacy Day, 2016 and translated in 25 languages by communities. She is the author of several fiction and non-fiction books on wildlife. She was appointed as the Honorary Wildlife Warden of Udaipur and has relentlessly pursued nature conservation through her writings and columns. Arefa is also an avid traveller and contributes travel pieces for various publications.



My Upcoming Sessions at The Hindu’s Lif for Life

telling talesVikram Sridhar with his rapt audience

The Hindu Lit for Life includes an exclusive literary festival for kids

The Hindu Lit for Life festival (January 14-16 at Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Chennai) celebrates books, literature, authors and creativity. The seventh edition promises something extra — a children’s literary festival, where little ones can appreciate the magic of storytelling through a variety of workshops. “ The Hindu has consistently catered to the interests of children through its publications such as Young World and The Hindu – In School , believing that youngsters need to be exposed to the magic of books and the practice of reading outside classrooms. With this children’s festival, we hope to build on that,” says Nirmala Lakshman, festival director and director of The Hindu group of publications.

Children between the ages of five and 12 can look forward to sessions on storytelling, theatre and creative writing, a science laboratory, Zumba session, an open-air library and more, which will be organised at two themed venues — Enchanted Land and Magic Burrow. Here’s a glimpse of what to expect:

Stories on stage

The only thing better than reading a story is watching it being enacted. City-based theatre group Crea Shakthi will organise a workshop titled Stories on Stage. “All our stories are becoming 140 characters. Kids have wonderful ideas, but they are not able to dig deeper,” explains Dushyanth Gunashekar, creative head of Crea Shakthi. “The session will begin with an interactive performance that will help children come up with their own ideas as to how they’d like to take the story forward. This will start them off on a process of questioning things and becoming curious about the world,” he adds.

January 14, noon to 1 p.m. (age group 5-8) and January 16, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (age group 9-12)

Let’s make a story

At a time when most children are exposed to stories through Disney animations and books written by western authors, Vikram Sridhar plans to keep it local. “I’m a Ramu-Shamu rather than a Harry Potter, so I will focus on localised stories (based in Alwarpet or Teynampet) based on reality,” says the 33-year-old Bangalore-based storyteller. He will perform a story for the younger children and help them develop a tale of their own; the older ones will get to dabble with theatre.

Have Fun with Stories: January 14, 9.45 a.m. to 10.45 a.m. (age group 9-12); Let’s Make a Story: 11 a.m. to noon (age group 5-8), and noon to 1 p.m. (age group 9-12); Also sign up for Bangalore-based writer Andaleeb Wajid’s creative writing workshop, The Never-Ending Story, on January 14, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (age group 5-8), and 11 a.m. to noon (age group 9-12).

Crazy Characters

Give children crayons and they will tell you stories. In his workshop, Bangalore-based illustrator Vinayak Varma will help them express themselves better. “I will first help them to imagine a character using words and then I’ll draw it. Then I’ll get them to do the same. This will give them an insight into how one goes from descriptions to an image,” shares the 34-year-old. “And if I can get them to extend the idea into something they can create at home or school later, that will be great.”

January 14, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (age group 5-8).

Jungle Book

Arefa Tehsin believes that a curiosity to know about the wild must be instilled in children when they are young. Especially since we are now in the “midst of the sixth mass extinction after the Ice Age”. “Children, especially in cities, are almost completely alienated from Nature. The bond with the wild needs to be re-established, not by preaching, but by using an interesting medium like stories,” says the novelist and ex-Honorary Wildlife Warden, Udaipur.

Her workshops will be structured as talks. The first, Snake – a Foe or a Friend?, will discuss the vilified creatures, while the second, Jungle Book, will discuss interesting facts like whether an Elephant Bird really exists.

Jungle Book: January 14, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (age group 9-12); Snake – a Foe or a Friend?, on January 15, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (age group 9-12)

Fun with Science

“We want kids to say ‘Science is awesome’,” says Supreetha Gonsalves of ScienceUtsav. Expect the workshop to be conducted in the form of a magic show, with experiments called Chemical Chameleons (involving changing colours) and Hovering Balls (dealing with aerodynamics). There are several themes, including Magic Potions and Khatron ke Khiladi, where children will see a few dangerous experiments. “We love kids more than science, so yes, safety is our priority,” she assures us.

January 15, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (age group 5-8) and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. (age group 9-12).

To register log on to The fee is Rs. 1,000.

“The bond with the wild needs to be re-established, not by preaching, but by using an interesting medium like stories”

The Hindu: Spoilt for Choice


Spoilt for CHOICE

 DECEMBER 09, 2016 00:00 
AREFA TEHSIN:I feel as happy as a clam in high water! The fact that the award is in collaboration with The Hindu , a daily that I have loved and regarded always, makes it all the more special.

The Hindu Young World -Goodbooks Awards 2017 will be announced on January 16, 2017 at The Lady Andal School in Chennai during The Hindu Lit for life. Read what the shortlisted authors and illustrators have to say about making it this far.

The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Awards is for children’s books published in India. It was introduced to promote excellence in children’s writing and illustration. The award aims to acknowledge innovative publishing trends, and recognise children’s literature as an independent and important field.

This is the second year the award will be given and the winners will be felicitated at The Hindu Lit for Life festival which will take place in Chennai on January 14, 15 and 16. This year, the awards will be given in two categories — Best Author and Best Illustrator. Each award will carry a cash prize of Rs. 50,000, a trophy and a citation.

The Hindu Young World -Goodbooks Award is the first in India to recognise different genres in children’s publishing and to honour authors and illustrators for their invaluable contribution. The Hindu Lit for Life, showcases the best of Indian literature and now provides a platform to promote excellence in Indian children’s books.

The Goodbooks website is a repository for Indian children’s books and provides a space to all those engaged with children to discourse on children’s literature.

Interview in Book Trotters Club



Arefa Tehsin is our hero at the book club! Why? Well, for starters she has been a forest warden. If that isn’t reason enough, we are awestruck by the fact that she gets to live admirably close to wild animals and writes books about living creatures we know very little about! This year has been extra special for the lady. After her book The Elephant Bird became Pratham Books’ choice for PBChampions, to be read across 3200 locations simultaneously in September, Arefa has scored another hit with her book Wild In The Backyard. She has been shortlisted for The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017 to be announced in January. Harshikaa Udasi brings to us the story behind the forest warden, the writer and the wanderlust.

With Wild In The Backyard, you’ve made it to the shortlist of The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017. Congratulations! January 2017 could bring in great news. We are doubly celebrating because one of our Book Trotters – Tanay Bhat – reviewed your book and got published in The Hindu.

Congratulations to Tanay!

I am delighted to make The Hindu-Goodbooks shortlist! Yes, they will be announcing the results in January during The Hindu’s Lit for Life literary festival, where I’ve been invited as a speaker as well. Hadn’t thought that I would be a part of the award ceremony too!

Your book The Elephant Bird was Pratham’s choice for PBChampions for promoting literacy. How was that experience?

I had not understood the scope and reach of this campaign when the book was selected. It was only when the pictures of sessions started pouring in from all over the country when it struck me. Sessions conducted by volunteers and communities in 25 different languages at 3200 plus locations from slums to the schools for specially-abled to Pranab Mukherjee’s Presidential Library! It was overwhelming, indeed, to see Munia and the Elephant Bird touch the hearts of so many children. Kudos to Pratham Books and the volunteers!

A forest warden and a writer. That’s got us intrigued already! Please tell us about your background. 

I come from a family of jungle lovers. My grandfather was one of the earliest big game hunters-turned-conservationists of India. He was a contemporary of Jim Corbett. My naturalist father Dr Raza H. Tehsin, fondly known as the Vasco da Gama of Mewar jungles is the initiator of the wildlife conservation movement in Southern Rajasthan. I have seen him fight for issues of conservation and wildlife protection like I wouldn’t fight for my own family!

I sort of grew up with jungles around me. My father was the Hon. Wildlife Warden of Udaipur district for 33 years and then I was appointed the honorary warden.

He always encouraged me to write. I’d started writing features for The Times of India in my school days. It was my partner Aditya who pestered me to take my writing more seriously and that’s when I penned down my first book – Iora and the Quest of Five – a fantasy novel based in a rainforest. Since I had grown with wild around me, the settings and subjects of my books came naturally to me.

Who or what is your inspiration?

Maybe it is the wild, jungles, animals…the things I love that inspire me. Anyway, I don’t wait for an inspiration. I just sit down and write.

What do you find more fascinating – books or wildlife?

Both. Equally. And both have been an integral part of my life. Wildlife – the real world around me. Books – the imaginary world I inhabit.

Do you sense that today’s children are keen on reading non-fiction? Especially about the wild?

Oh yes, anything that crawls, slithers, eats their own poop or has eight eyes is certain to grab their attention. Jerry Mander had said in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television that after sometime, if you ask a child, ‘where do oranges grow?’ she’ll say, ‘in a supermarket’. Most city-dwelling children today are alienated from the wild. But they are nonetheless fascinated by it. The problem is that there aren’t many avenues to bring them close to nature. I have observed the fascination of many young readers during my interactions with them – talks at literary festivals and schools – how much they enjoy knowing and reading about the wonders of the wild.

We know a lot of research goes into every book of yours. Could you tell us a little about how you structure out your book writing process?

Yes, many long hours of research go behind writing non-fiction books. Even behind fiction to a certain extent, if it has to ring true. Each book is different. And there is no set method to structure a book. For non-fiction I sometimes decide to divide it in chapters that I want to write before I begin. For fiction, especially novels, I draw a rough outline of the story and then let the story guide and lead me as I write. Sometimes it turns out to be completely different than how I had imagined it to be.

Can you tell us what’s in the offing?

The book called The Steed of Jungle God, which should hopefully get released this year. It is a collection of stories on my father’s 70+ years of experiences in the forests of Mewar, the phenomena which he has come across in the wild which can attributed to ghosts and spirits and his quest for rational explanations behind those phenomena.

A piece of advice for our budding writers please!

Books can be your best teachers and friends. Read a lot. Write a lot. Hone your skills. Don’t get stuck with the “rules” of writing. Or make publishing your final goal. If your writing is good enough, it will happen. Writing should be like Nature – original, unpredictable, green, fresh and wild, of course.

Copyright: Book Trotters Club