Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Rumbling Island

The Rumbling Island
True Stories from the Forests of India
Edited by Zai Whitaker

A few years back, our family went on a wonderful trip to Kabini Jungle Lodges. We were excited and acted like hyper-excited, dumb eco-tourists on our safaris. Much before the other safari-engaged jeeps would start from the lodging, one of the jeeps with a single passenger carrying a massive camera started early. A few of us grumbled and wondered why that person got special treatment and was taken in the jeep alone. Our guide later informed us that that person was on the hunt for that elusive tiger photo and he has been coming there for almost every weekend from Bangalore for the last 4-5 months. Our safari started and I soon forgot about him.

Some time later, our guide got a radio message informing that one of the jeeps have spotted a leopard and all the safari jeeps turned around from various locations in the forest to catch the elusive cat. Our jeep was one of the first to reach that spot. Much before we reached there, was that man standing on the jeep waiting for taking his shot. The leopard is mighty secretive animal and all these massive jeeps made him keep to his hiding place behind one of the tree branches. The whole place was quiet for 10-15 minutes and after that every one started fidgeting, a few cursed, a few started yawning and few others just kept clicking away the branch - hoping that camera would magically capture the cat. After 30 minutes, every one lost their patience and all the jeeps turned around(except one) and went to look for much easier animals to spot like a herd of elephants. While we fidgeted, that man was standing still on his jeep without even a slightest change in his posture for the whole 30 minutes. We left soon afterwards and later came to know that he had waited for almost 3 hours before the leopard had decided to bless him with a darshan and he must have clicked away happily. We met him during the dinner and he was surrounded by all the guides to check out his photos. But, he was not satisfied - his quest to capture the tiger was still on and he would be back the next weekend.

I wondered what drove this man? I did not find the answer, but, realised there are many such interesting wild life enthusiasts who help us understand the mysterious and fast disappearing natural world around us.

Zai Whitaker, an wild life enthusiast, collects and brings together some amazing stories of Indian natural history. The book 'Rumbling Island' gives us a glimpse behind the Indian stories of these naturalists and their struggle. The book starts with an interesting story by Cliff Rice on how he has spent many months alone in the forests of Nilgiris to understand the endemic mountain goats of South India - the Nilgiri Tahr. There are other amazing stories including the story by Ashish Chandola as he spent many days next to a tiger cave to capture the photograph and understand their living; Rom Whitaker's hunt to find massive crocodiles, monster crocs as he calls it; Sally Walker's work in Mysore Zoo and many other interesting stories.

My favourite was Ian Lockwood's writeup on climbing up Agastyamalai and his madcap plan on staying up the peak the whole night. (By the way Agastyamalai, has a statue of Sage Agastya on its peak, who is supposed to have discovered/invented the Tamil language)

If you are looking for a book to introduce older kids regarding the adventure and thrill of wild life and nature, I would strongly suggest and recommend this wonderful book. Ranjani accidently came across this book and it turned out to be a great treat. We exchanged the book as she and I read one story after another (sometime even snatching it away from each other - ok, I am just exaggerating - but, you should get the idea regarding how much we were hooked on to this book).

This book is interspersed with small and funky illustrations by Uma Krishnaswamy. Zai Whitaker also has a story regarding her relative, the great Salim Ali in this collection. Do also check out her book on Salim Ali - Salim Ali for Schools. (a review for another day).


Choxbox said...

Have this one Sathsh but haven't read it myself - should check it out now that I've read your review. The child has liked it loads looks like, given the number of re-reads.

utbtkids said...

Sounds awesome Satish.

Your safari anecdotes brings back memories :)

utbtkids said...

Found it in Amazon.

sathish said...

chox, I would suggest that you pick it up.

utbt, thanks. would love to hear your about your memories.

Choxbox said...

Will do Sathish.

And we did the same safari last year - my husband's jeep was blessed with a tiger crossing their path - and of course his camera battery ran out exactly then. But maybe it was a good thing as he says, he drank in the awesomeness of the beast rather than try to get the settings right on his camera!

sandhya said...

Seems like a wonderful book. I read aloud to my daughter A everyday for some time, and I usually choose a book that is slightly beyond her capabilities. We have just finished with "The animals of Farthing Wood" in the original, and it has whetted her appetite for anything to do with animals. So will reserve this one if Chox has it.
Chox, I'm in line after you are done with it. That makes it three books I'm to pick up from you!

Vibha said...

Need to find this one soon. Sounds really interesting.
Thanks Sathish!

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