In the book, Evergreen Leaves — Recollections of My Journeys into Wild India, writer and traveller C Gangadharan Menon compiles some of his best articles on nature...
Six years ago, on a jungle trek in Mudumalai I survived a tusker attack. I took it as a signal from Mother Nature to pen down all my wild experiences of over three decades of travel.
A flock of Blacktailed Godwits trailing a lone boatman in the marshes of Mangalajodi in Odisha. PIC COURTESY/ C GANGADHARAN MENON
The idea of publishing a book occurred to me only when I crossed 75 articles. The maximum number (54 to be precise) was published in mid-day. The next step was to select the best 30.
Once these were accepted by a publisher who gave me the freedom to work independently, and I was able to identify an art expert to design it, I was set.
The selection of the 30 images was based on two factors: the stories had to be completely different from each other; and they had to show the amazing bio-diversity of our country.
The Birdman of Kheechan
Evergreen Leaves retells many attempts at conserving all that is left of nature in this country. From the community efforts in Chilika Lake in Odisha, where a gang of poachers have become die-hard protectors, to the efforts of a one-man army named Ratanlal Maloo. He was a man from the sleepy village of Kheechan who ensured that the number of migratory birds called Demoiselle Cranes grew from a dozen to a staggering 15,000 in four decades of dedication. The spectacle of a few thousand cranes descending to feed in a human settlement is a rarity anywhere in the world.
The Wild Side of Wildlife
The first story I wrote was at the behest of Isaac Kehimkar, a well-known naturalist from BNHS. He wanted me to recount my great escape from the lone tusker. It had to be a warning to the young generation of nature lovers, to tell them that the forest is the abode of wild animals who will attack if they see a threat to their survival. I expanded the story of my survival in Mudumalai to cover all the wild encounters I have had in India, from Kerala to Maharashtra.
Silent Valley isn’t Silent Anymore
My trip to the Silent Valley in Kerala, when I was 23, was my initiation into the ways of the forest. A team of seven green activists (this was decades before the term was coined) had smuggled a 16mm Bolex camera into this pristine evergreen forest. The idea was to document the natural treasures of this forest before they were lost to mankind by getting submerged under the backwaters of a proposed dam. The result was a powerful 18-minute documentary that played a significant part in Silent Valley being declared a National Park in 1982.
The Crown of the World
One of my favourite places in India is the breathtaking Himalayas. This story covers the beautiful landscapes of Ladakh and the spectacular Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand. It has a personal touch, too, as it was in the snow-covered slopes of Leh that we, that is my wife, my son and I, had a near-fatal experience due to the lack of life-giving oxygen. It includes interesting accounts of the monasteries at Thiksey, and the legend of Lamayuru.
Children of a Greater God
Here is an interesting story of an entire religion built centuries ago solely on the principles of conservation of nature: the Bishnois. This community has a strength of 20 lakh people, where everyone is committed to saving all things living. A couplet in Rajasthani sums up their belief system. ‘Sar saathe rookh rahe, phir bhi sasto jaan.’ It means, ‘Even if you lay down your life to protect a tree, it is still worth it.’ So, even to this day, we have Bishnois laying down their lives to protect what the uninitiated would call ‘just a blackbuck.’
1. Himalayan National Park,
2. Hemis National Park,
3. Pin Valley National Park
4. Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh
Evergreen Leaves, Gangadharan Menon, Partridge. Available on www.amazon.in and www.barnesand noble.com. The Kindle version is available for Rs 200. Limited edition of autographed books are available at a discounted price of Rs 3,000.
When C Gangadharan Menon went off track in the Sahyadris
Ever wondered what might happen if you were to stray away from the beaten path while on a trek or hike? C Gangadharan Menon walked into a whole new world after he decided to take a detour en route to Matheran, only to chance upon numerous sights and sounds in the valley of Neral. (Read more)
Hope floats on the mangroves along Thane Creek
The mangroves that dot the 15 km-stretch from Airoli to Navi Mumbai along Thane Creek act as lungs to a burgeoning metropolis and remain one of the last surviving bio-diverse havens, blessed with rich flora and fauna. C Gangadharan Menon goes on a walk-through of these fragile, floating forests. (Read more)