Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Secret lives", again

I previously mentioned Natasha Mhatre's Secret Lives, a book on the fauna of the IISc campus, and finally got my copy yesterday. I expected it to be very good, but it is way better than that. It is mind-boggling the variety of wildlife with which I was in close proximity for six years of my life without ever noticing.

The pictures are outstanding, and some of the best ones never appeared on Natasha's blog, while even the ones that did look better in the high-quality print. The book is very well produced, and Natasha's text (that discusses a lot of behavioural and evolutionary ecology) is very informative. A few references would have been welcome, but it is not meant to be a scholarly book. It is, however, much more than a pretty coffee-table book. I'd say it is essential, not just for anyone who loved the IISc campus, but anyone who wants to know what sort of wildlife may be found within city limits in India.

IISc is surely not alone in this: Mumbai has a national park in Borivali, and Chennai has the Guindy national park, for example. A keen photographer, willing to put in the sort of effort and labour that Natasha did, could surely document these equally well. But the difference is that IISc is not a national park. It does not even adjoin one, as IIT Madras does. What it is, is a truly remarkable academic campus. And this book documents a side that most visitors, and indeed most residents, never see.

The link above tells you how to get it; if you live in Bangalore or Chennai, the easiest would be to drop in at Tata Book House, on the IISc and IIT campus respectively.


km said...

I first read that as "a book on the flora of the IISc campus". I probably remembered peeking into the campus as a child and seeing all those beautiful trees.

Thanks for this reco. Sounds like a great read.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Actually there is another book on IISc's flora, written by an IISc professor, that was released at the same time. I haven't seen it yet, but will probably review it when I do.

Anant said...

It is called


km said...

Anant: Thanks!

(Publishers and booksellers should bundle these two books together.)