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In Black and White

Ranjit Lal

By M. Krishnan . Commemorative Limited Edition, compiled by Shanthi and Ashish Chandola with T.N.A. Perumal
Universities Press, Delhi, 2006, pp. 128, Rs. 1500.00


It is said that the Borivili National Park, cheek by jowl with Mumbai has more species of animals, birds, reptiles, and insects than the whole of Great Britain. In terms of species’ diversity India is a multi-millionaire country as compared to most of the countries of the so-called developed world. But alas, when it comes to that special breed of human being – the nature writer – we are alas hopelessly impoverished – and to mix metaphors, seem to be heading for extinction. Whereas every wild living creature in every square inch of British countryside has been photographed and written about ad nauseam we know next to nothing about the denizens that share our lives with us. Whether this is because, as M. Krishnan wryly observed way back in the 1970s, ‘neither at the level of the illiterate peasant, nor among the educated people is there any popular feeling for wildlife in India today’ remains a moot point. Not true any more, you might argue indignantly, but tell me, how many major newspapers run a regular topical column on nature?   Not at present, perhaps, but for those who cut their ‘natural’ teeth way back in the 1950s and 60s there was one: M. Krishnan’s ‘Country Notebook’ that appeared fortnightly in The Statesman, and that introduced us to all kinds of fascinating denizens, from everyday squirrels and bandicoots to mighty tuskers and rhinos. For once, you could read about a creature you could actually identify with. The pictures that backed up the highly informative but sparse and dryly peppery text were alas never reproduced satisfactorily enough, (and must have made Krishnan grind down his molars!) but the column was reason enough for you subscribe to the paper. Actually after all this grumbling, I must admit we’ve been lucky: the few nature or wildlife writers that we have somehow managed to produce have been gems – E.P. Gee, Jim Corbett, Salim Ali and M. Krishnan – and need to be commemorated in every which way. Corbett wrote about tigers and man-eaters, Salim Ali on birds, and M. Krishnan on just about every living creature he came across – be it in his backyard or in the deepest jungles. In this volume Shanthi and Ashish Chandola along with T.N.A. Perumal pay tribute to Krishnan by reproducing a selection of writings and photographs, which alas, we must be satisfied with until they bring out a ...

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