Happy Book Lover’s Day! We don’t need an excuse to gush about books but couldn’t let Book Lover’s Day pass without sharing some of our favourite writings on nature and the environment to come out of India in recent times. Here we talk about a non-fiction adventure thriller about the resilient little Olive Ridley turtles, a landscape designer’s travels snacking on wild, foraged foods across India, a techie who gave it all up to become a farmer, a green warrior’s battle cry for action and a hapless wife chronicling the adventures of her reptile obsessed husband.
Do let us know if any of our recommendations appeal to you. And be sure to share with us your favourite environmental reads in the comments sections. We can’t wait to check them out.
Mother Earth Sister Seed by Lathika George
When Lathika George first began setting up her kitchen garden she was determined to stay away from chemicals and GMO seeds. Curious to learn about the old methods of farming she embarked on an unintentional adventure. She started participating in farmers rituals and attending farming festivals. Soon the landscape designer planned her holidays expressly around visiting farms across India.
In each and every destination she teamed up with local farmers to find the little-known gems of indigenous foods and farming practices of the area. She went blueberry picking in Kodaikanal. In Gujarat’s Kutch region she was delighted by the blushing pink jungle jalebi, a wild food of the desert. She feasted on taal (wild colocasia) in Kerala in the monsoon and on fiddle head ferns in Himachal in Autumn. She learned the tricky ways of collecting stinging nettle from the women farmers in Sikkim and how to make a delicacy soup out of it.
A lyrical travelogue that investigates India’s rich natural food landscape and pays tribute to the farmers keeping traditional methods alive – Mother Earth Sister Seed is a fabulous book by an author who is on a journey of discovery herself.
From Soup to Superstar: The Story of Sea Turtle Conservation Along the Indian Coast by Kartik Shanker
Tigers and elephants have our attention when it comes to conservation. Little seafaring turtles – not so much. A pity since India’s V shaped 7500 kilometre coast is home to a staggeringly rich marine ecosystem. You may occasionally hear of Olive Ridley sea turtles when they come ashore to lay eggs. The news of those eggs hatching and thousands of baby sea turtles scuttling back to the sea may have put a smile on your face.
Once upon a time turtles were endangered because of how valued they were for their meat and bones. Now the encroaching development on beaches and piles and piles of garbage on it present a different kind of threat. In from Soup to Superstar, scientist and writer Kartik Shanker takes you on a deep dive into India’s sea turtle conservation story. Intrepid conservationists and the tiny but tough turtles are the stars of this book which reads less like a scientific exposition and more like an unputdownable adventure-thriller.
Moong Over Microchips: Adventures of A Techie Turned Farmer by Venkat Iyer
As the project manager of a big IT firm in Mumbai Venkat Iyer was living a life he had worked hard to achieve. But the stressful existence disheartened him and soon he was asking himself a question that many white-collar urban dwellers are frequently confronted with – what is it all for? He gave it all up and took up organic farming in a small village near Mumbai. He had no prior experience in agriculture whatsoever.
What followed was a hair-raising ride into a world fraught with erratic weather conditions and stubborn farm animals. He went from asking himself, ‘What is it all for,’ to ‘What the hell am I doing?’
We don’t have to embrace changes as extreme as Venkat to find joy in this book. The stories and learnings he shares while imbibing a steady diet of fresh air, organic food and bucketloads of uncertainty are sure to offer value and laughs to anyone beset with some existential questions of their own.
Conflicts of Interest: My Journey Through India’s Green Movement by Sunita Narain
Sunita Narain is one of India’s most well-known environmentalists and a political activist. She is a force to reckon with in the field of sustainable development. As the editor of Down To Earth, India’s foremost environmental publication, her voice is at the forefront of India’s green movement.
In Conflicts of Interest, she details her years of fighting in the trenches and speaking truth to power. Her close observation of how India’s enormous environmental challenges are compounded by corporate lobbies and political interests. How pioneering research by her and her team uncovered previously unreported controversies – be it pesticides in cola drinks or the severity of Delhi’s air pollution.
It’s not all about negativity. The book concludes with an environmental manifesto – a blueprint for the direction India must take if it is to deal with climate change and environmental degradation in a positive way. The book is a battle cry from a devoted green warrior. Are you willing to answer?
My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin
If you like to laugh uproariously through your reading materials, then this is the book for you. Janaki Lenin’s husband is the premier herpetologist Romulus Whitaker. His devotion to dangerous reptiles far exceeds his interest in the human kind. Courtesy of being married to him, she’s been tagging along on adventures with him deep into rainforests and jungles. When Rom founded the Madras Crocodile Bank, she was right there alongside him documenting the ins and outs of sharing your life with massive predators who just want to snack on meat and laze in the sun all day long.
Now she and Rom live on the outskirts of Chennai where they have turned 20 acres of barren land into a thriving jungle replete with mongooses, black-naped hares, palm civets, porcupines, bonnet macaques, peacocks and many other residents. There are even leopards. As Janaki grudgingly shares her house with scorpions, bats and toads she wrote a follow up to her first book – My Husband and Other Animals 2. A real delight for those of us who only share our homes with creatures of the human variety.