Thank you all for coming here this evening, to celebrate a little book called “Just look up…to see the magic in the trees around you”. Thank you, Vijayaram garu and Kobita for being here today, and for what you have said.
Background: Let me tell you briefly about how this book happened. Since the last 9 years, along with my friend Kobita, I have been doing a gardening class for children in Vidyaranya High School. As part of this gardening class, we take children on a tree walk around the school, and show them the 25-odd varieties of trees that are there. Every time I did this, I felt a need for photos or illustrations to show children a particular tree in the season when it blooms. So I began taking pictures on my many walks amidst nature. Over some years, I had a fairly good collection of photos. Being an editor and designer of books, I began giving it a structure between other assignments, and slowly the idea of this book began to excite me, and I began putting it together with interest and a sense of purpose.
Another important thing of course, is the feeling that I should share with people the joy I derive from nature.
Cause: More important than the book or its making, is the cause it represents. This book is a reminder to people, especially in urban areas, that they should not lose the ability to wonder at the simple joys that nature offers. My own happiest childhood memories are associated with plants, trees, insects and animals. Helping my mother plant zinnias and hollyhocks, playing with little red velvet mites or birba buddies (insects that made their appearance soon after the rains began); and catching dragon flies and frogs---just for fun! These are my fondest memories. I also have a favourite memory of the amazement I felt when I was told on every trip to Bangalore, that it was my maternal grandfather K. Bhima Rao, who had planted the neem trees on Margosa road. He had worked as Deputy Director of Agriculture long long ago.
Important to be in touch with nature: I believe it is very important for human beings to be in touch with nature…sadly, many people do not even realize this. They do not realize this perhaps because their mother or father or a grandmother or grandfather never pointed out to them, the shapes of clouds or the colours of a sunset. It is so important for parents to tell children to look at nature. This is what Kobita and I try hard to pass on to children in our gardening class. We tell them to look at the sky, to observe plants and trees, to notice the delicateness of petals, the patterns on shells and insects!
Nature in the city: Following the life cycle of a butterfly is fantastic education; discovering eggs in a nest and observing them till they hatch, teaches a child something no book can teach. To do all this, one doesn’t have to spend thousands of rupees to go on a holiday to the Sahyadris or to Sunderbans or to Madagascar or Manaus. Magic happens around us even in the city…in the tree outside one’s apartment complex or in one’s school or workplace. Hyderabad is fortunate to have many beautiful parks.
Rock walks: I discovered several interesting things on rock walks with Hyderabad’s Society to Save the Rocks. It was on one such walk that I saw the abrus creeper with its pretty red and black seeds. I had never seen it before. It was also on one rock walk that I spotted the birba buddis we used to play with as children. I quickly showed them to my children, and felt that I had fulfilled an important duty towards them! I was also overjoyed that these little insects had not become extinct in these parts.
The book: Coming back to the book, I would like to tell you all that this book is not just a collection of photos…there is a story that continues through the book. So, I request my readers to read it from cover to cover…it won’t take more than 20 minutes. The other aspect I wish to point out is the spread on the last two pages. It is a calendar of events, and gives a month-by-month indicator of which trees to watch out for each month. I really hope those who read this book will use this calendar and watch out for the magical events that happen year after year after year. As Hugh Johnson says, “No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden.”
What is my dream for this book? Ideally, I would like it to be like the Olympic torch…and pass on the spirit of friendship with nature from one generation to the other. More realistically, I would like it to make people take more walks in parks, listen to the song of the koel, and simply acknowledge the presence of the several fascinating varieties of trees around us. On an ambitious note is the hope that once people become sensitive to trees and nature, when an axe hits a roadside tree, there will be many voices that will shout, “Stop…don’t cut down this tree”.
- I thank Mrs Anuradha for graciously letting me have this get-together in the creative space that is Saptaparni. I also thank Sunita and Ramu and others here, for their help
- My sincere thanks to Vijayaram, Usha and Kobita for sharing their thoughts this evening. To me they are people who, with their beliefs and work, represent hope and sanity in this crazy world. Thank you, Shekhar, for adding the special touch.
- My interest in plants and trees is thanks to my mother, who treasures her lovely garden, which is home to birds, squirrels and a snake or two; and to my father, for making that beautiful home for us to grow up in.
- My knowledge of trees is entirely due to inspiration from Kobita, and from my students—whose curiosity fuels my enthusiasm to learn more....
- My gratitude to Mrs Shanta Rameshwar Rao, Principal, Vidyaranya High School, for believing in me and for giving me the opportunity to discover nature with children.
- ...to my friends Kamakshi, Usha and Jananie for their help with the text
- To Anand Vishwanadha and S Karthikeyan for motivation, before and after this book was published. It is because of their enthusiastic insistence that this book launch is happening here today.
- ...to Mr Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia, for writing the foreword to my book. I am touched, indeed.
- To Team Pragati for their care and attention during the printing of this book
- ... to my children, Ragini and Malini, for giving me a chance to be a child with them...and to Vijay, for providing stability to my world.
- To all of you,—thank you for being here. I hope this book will make you look up and revel in the visual delights that nature offers.
- Finally, to Mother Nature herself, who I look up to as the only god.