When a coffee table book that dedicates itself to the wild beauties that our state has to offer is released by Sanctuary Asia with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the Maharashtra State Forest Department, you can expect reliable and passionate content. Wild Maharashtra is full of images that make you wonder why you have been stuck in that cubicle when you should be discovering such stunning wilderness.
Environmental news magazine Sanctuary Asia, edited by noted conservationist Bittu Sahgal, has put together this 180-page book that takes you across accounts by the likes of Dr Anish Andheria (director of the Wildlife Conservation Trust), Dr Asad Rahmani (director of the Bombay Natural History Society) and Sahgal himself, along with co-editor Lakshmy Raman. Often taking on a personal tone with a first-person narrative, the book exposes you to subjects that include trekking in the Sahyadris, our wildlife and bird sanctuaries, our gorgeous coastline as well as a note on protecting tomorrow’s world.
In true Sanctuary Asia style, the book does place a tad too much emphasis on the majestic tiger (the alpha predator appears three times in the first 12 pages, as well as on the back cover), and some pictures seem a little photoshopped making the vibrant greens greener and the flowers a tad too appealing, as they do in the section on the Kaas Plateau.
But the photos are undoubtedly stunning, emerging from the entries selected through a photo contest. A mating pair of night frogs, a trio of timid chinkaras silhouetted against an orange sky, a white-bellied Sea Eagle picking up a sea snake — the vivid photographs are interspersed with text and boxes that include a list of what to look out for if you happen to visit the area in question, along with a trivia box on how to get there, and side notes.
There are chapters dedicated to the tourist favourites, Matheran and Mahabaleshwar, as well as some dedicated to emerging hotspots like the Kaas Plateau, tiger reserves at Pench, Tadoba and Melghat, and the smaller, lesser-known sanctuaries like Tipeshwar in the Yavatmal district of Vidarbha. The last few pages of the book include a passionate plea to protect our natural heritage.
It is hard to imagine that a lot of what we just saw in the pages of the book is prone to extinction if we do not take swift and smart steps to curb our selfish approach to nature. Maybe this book will help sensitise us to what is at stake, or maybe it will help MTDC in its tourism initiatives by making us look to our own state to be awed on a vacation.
Maybe it will just make some of us cuddle up over a weekend with the hardbound book for company, or maybe it will make us go out and convert those photographs into something we’ve seen. Either way, the book pays homage to a state many of us have grown indifferent to, and we were happy when we closed the book, feeling a sense of pride at belonging to Maharashtra.