Exploring The Indian Landscape

A photo essay from the perspective of a children’s books writer reveals interesting insights about India’s diverse cultures and landscapes

Although originally a chemical engineer, I switched to writing books for children when it dawned on me that my love for exploration and travel didn’t fit with a career in engineering. So, somewhere along the line, I dropped engineering and decided to travel and write books full-time. I have a love for wildlife and wilderness areas, so I travel to offbeat areas and set my stories in these lesser known places. I have set stories in the Himalayas, in the Andaman Islands, the Lakshadweep Islands, the Sahyadri Hills and in our great forests. Typically, I travel to a chosen destination for my story and spend a month or more in the area. I usually team up with wildlife researchers who are working in the area and spend time with them. Their inputs supply me with ideas, which I then independently pursue.

The following is a collection of pictures of my travels to research and write stories:

The Andaman Islands: I have set two stories here – one titled ‘The Jarawa’ and the other is ‘Barren Island’. The Jarawa are a hunter gatherer people who still hunt with bows and arrows. I was lucky to spend time with them and explore the forests they live in.

Often, we think of the Jarawa as a scruffy, filthy and uncivilised people who need to be liberated and taught to live ‘civilised’ lives like ours. After spending time with them I came away with a different point of view.

The truth is that our planet would be a much healthier place if we learned to live like them. This becomes glaringly evident when we compare the ecological footprints our lifestyles inflict on our planet with theirs.  When the Jarawa shift homes – as hunter-gatherers they do this often – they carry their belongings with them. In fact, on the day we met them, they hitched a ride with us to a neighbouring island, and this is when I was struck by the simplicity of their belongings. Their entire possessions – all that they have collected during their lives – can be carried on their backs. When they boarded our boat they brought with them their bows, arrows, fishing nets, plastic water bottles and baskets – that’s all! Imagine what we would carry if we shifted homes – a couple of truckloads at the minimum. It is obvious that the earth would be a healthier planet if we all learned to live like the Jarawa.

Barren Island is the home of India’s only live volcano.  As a writer of adventure stories I couldn’t resist travelling there and setting one of my stories on the island.

The Lakshadweep Islands: These are India’s very own coral atolls. I have been fascinated by them ever since I was a child, and this is where my very first novel is based. I was lucky to visit the islands as part of a windsurfing team. Our goal was to travel on windsurf boards from island to island. We spent a month in the islands. We lived with locals, with whom we went fishing, scuba diving and windsurfing.

The Sahyadri Hills: I live in Pune and the Sahyadri Hills are my backyard. I have been trekking in the hills since I was a child. The hills are rugged and beautiful and the best time to trek in them is the monsoons, when they turn green and beautiful, and waterfalls cascade everywhere. This is the area that was the home of the great king, Shivaji, and his forts adorn the peaks of several of the hills. I have set two stories here – ‘Anirudh’s Dream’ and ‘Koleshwar’s Secret’.

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