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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XXI No. 19, January 15-31, 2012
Fly away with them...
By Savitha Gautam

Of Birds and Birdsong by M. Krishnan. Edited by Shanthi and Ashish Chandola. (Aleph, Rs. 595).

Living in the suburbs has its advantages. Especially if you are a bird lover. I live in an apartment complex which overlooks a small patch of green (one of the few left on that busy stretch of road). I sip my morning coffee watching yellow-beaked mynas wrestle with wrens for that odd grain or two; and farm egrets dance around a cow that is grazing nearby. And after a short spell of rain, a kingfisher decides to visit the spot and often chooses a particular pole to perch itself on and make my day! Swallows, bee-eaters and orioles have been spotted once in a while.

That's why I loved reading Of Birds and Birdsong, a compilation of articles by naturalist-photographer M. Krishnan written in the 1950s and 1960s in various publications, including The Hindu, The Statesman and The Illustrated Weekly of India. This first collection of Krishnan's pieces exclusively on birds is truly a treasure trove of all things beautiful and unique. He spent a lot of his time wandering in the wilderness, observing Nature, and putting his experiences on paper. As ornithologist Zafar Fatehully writes in his Foreword, "… what can one say (about the pieces) except to praise their accuracy and elegance combined."

Sample this: "… of all birds, they are the most like us, not all of us, but a certain happy section of humanity…" This is how Krishnan likes to describe the sparrow. He continues, "Sparrows are very like the hearty 'objective' type of people who lead their lives in public and never blush… vivacious, inquisitive, determined to make most of things, enterprising and wholly insensitive." Those words tell you quite a lot about the writer and the man… he's witty, has a superb power of observation, and has vivid imagination.

Krishnan has brought alive over 100 species of birds, some as common as the crow, partridge and pigeon, and others as exotic as the peacock, red-headed Merlin, pied-crested cuckoo, hoopoe or crimson-breasted barbet. Not to be left out are rare birds such as the Great Indian Bustard and Great Black Woodpecker.

What makes each chapter endearing is the personal touch that Krishnan brings to the story.

His passion for each bird is there for readers to see and imbibe.

As Fatehully writes, "Wherever he was, at all hours of the day, Krishnan had his ears tuned to the calls and songs of birds… each piece in this collection has something original… and his description of common events holds your interest because of his writing."

This book is a fantastic journey of discovering the rich avian life that India boasts of. A must read for all those who are into wildlife photography and Nature-watching.

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In this Issue

Is conservation on right track?
Neglect threatening QMC building
Beach, bins & beauty
Krishnan entertains off the court
In the Fort & outside...
Walking about with
Sriram V.
Collecting our memories
'Curdrice cricket'
Dennis no 'menace' in Madras
Inspiring a crop of chess champions
Changing times
Fly away with them...
Children's focus during Madras Week

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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