HT Picks: This week’s best reads

The adventures of a wildlife biologist, a novel set in Goa and another set in Assam make up the reading list this weekend

books Updated: Apr 20, 2018 20:00 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Interesting reads for the weekend.(HT Team)
Rs 499, 222pp; Speaking Tiger

Beginning with his interactions with Dr Salim Ali, the legendary ornithologist - who was also his grand uncle - wildlife biologist Rauf Ali takes the reader on a journey through India’s natural history and the beginning of ecological studies in India.

Rauf was one of the first Indians to complete a PhD in wildlife biology - he researched the social behaviour of bonnet macaques in the forests of Mundanthurai region in Tamil Nadu. In the late 1980s, he was instrumental in setting up one of India’s first Masters programmes in ecology, and later, as an ecologist, Rauf undertook the task of delineating Protected Areas in the Palani Hills of the Western Ghats. He was also among the first to conduct environmental research in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in this book, he provides eye-opening information on the environmental damage caused by the introduction of chital and other species alien to the region.

Enlivening the narrative are anecdotes drawn from a career spanning over three decades: of encountering wild elephants; dealing with red tape; and whiskey -laced brainstorming sessions with students and Nobel Laureates alike.

‘Through these personal accounts, Rauf reveals the state of environmental conservation in India, and the complex relationship between locals, wildlife researchers and forest officials. He also emerges as a person who was influential in creating policies for the conservation of the environment and who had little patience for the corruption and bureaucratic processes that came in the way. Quirky, candid and informative, Running Away from Elephants is an invaluable addition to writings on natural history in India.

Rs 299, 187pp; Aleph

The Baptism of Tony Calangute tells the story of Tony Calangute, the owner of Happy Bar, and his fiery cousin Dino Dantas, self-appointed guardian of Aparanta, the mythic, idyllic Goa of old. Their tale begins in the sleepy seaside village of Socorro Do Mundo, where time holds little meaning.

For some time now, the world and several of Aparanta’s own have been engaged in a feeding frenzy on the natural treasures of this land of plenty. Chief among the poison-mongers is Winston Almeida, supreme thug, land shark and political aspirant, who will stop at nothing to appropriate and plunder all that this creaky,corrupt paradise has to offer. For this he has allied with Sergei Yurlov, a Russian drug lord; The Princess, a tantalizing Brazilian transsexual go-between, and PI Fernandes, her Goan policeman lover - and their alliance is blessed by Number One, the political overlord of Aparanta. Standing up to them are Tony and Dino, who are determined as ever to preserve what they can of their homeland.

In prose that is partly lyrical, part brutal satire, yet always passionate Sudeep Chakravarti evokes the essence of a paradise on the verge of losing its soul.*

Rs 599, 261pp; Aleph

It is the summer of 2012. A young girl is molested in Guwahati in India’s Northeast, journalists take photographs and make videos of the incident, but no one tries to rescue her. The monsoons have arrived, and Assam is flooded, as it is every year.

In Siliguri, Kobita, a fifty-four-year-old activist, married to Nayan, a blind poet, decides to travel to Guwahati to search for the molested girl who has gone missing. Before she takes off she leaves instructions to have a new bed made. Because of his disability, Nayan has no option but to depend on the carpenter and his family to trace his wife after her phone calls stop coming.

There is a riot in lower Assam from where Kobita last called her husband. While Nayan grows desperate for news about his missing wife, their son, Kabir, is in England, absorbed in his research about Hill Cart Road, the highway that connects Siliguri to Darjeeling and the eastern Himalayas. Missing is about seven days in the lives of these people. It is a study of the modern marriage, played out against the awareness of the question that gave birth to the Indian subcontinent’s first epic, the Ramayana: What happens when a wife goes missing? *

*All copy from the book flap.

First Published: Apr 20, 2018 19:58 IST