Author: P Jeganathan

Thank you and good bye Sachin!

Thank you and good bye Sachin!

Watching cricket matches played down under is quite special. Unlike Indian grounds they have lush green grass outfield neatly trimmed to give various shapes which gives exotic look. A weird thing about watching live telecast from there means we need to get up at 0300 in the morning. It was during one of those early mornings while watching a one day match in 1994 I saw a small boy who was representing Indian team. He was Sachin Tendulkar. He got injured in the field and was carried by another squad member Vivek Razdan. This is my earliest recollection of watching Sachin Tendulkar in a cricket match.


I was an ardent fan of Kapil Dev during those days. But Sachin became one of my favourites immediately after watching him playing during the second One Day Internationals (ODI) of that same series. He opened the innings (for the first time since Navjoti Singh Sidhu was injured) and smashed all the fast bowlers. I clearly remember Chris Pringle had no clue about what was happening while he was bowling to Sachin who had already hit him for 3 consecutive boundaries in an over. Ken Rutherford, the then captain of NZL team had to walk from mid-on to have a word with him on how to bowl. But that barely had any affect, Sachin was on full flow on that day. He scored 82 runs (15 fours and 2 sixes) in just 49 deliveries. Mind you this happened in 1994, there were no Powerplays then.

In 1998, during my masters, I was staying in my collage hostel. Watching television in the hostel was allowed only on special occasions such as cricket matches or on Sunday evenings movies after getting prior permission from the hostel warden. Cricket matches when India played were like festive occasions for us. Watching cricket match along with friends, that too in a hostel set up, was always fun. Only if you have experienced it, would you understand this. Cricket fans who have watched matches in 1998 will not forget the tournaments India played at Sharjah.

No one will forget the famous match against Australia when India needed to score 254 to qualify for the final. We were all watching this match in our hostel. Wickets were falling at regular intervals and the chances of reaching that target looked very feeble. Then, a dust storm disturbed the match proceeding further. Sachin was there in the crease but most of the hostel inmates had lost hope and got back to their respective rooms. After about half an hour or so few guys watching the match cheered and shouted and called everyone in their rooms back to watch the match. Then the crowd gathered to see Sachin demolishing the Australian fast bowlers and score a century. It was the most unbelievable match that I have ever seen. We lost the match but Sachin got us through to the final. He did not stop there. He scored another ton in the final against the same opponent and got us a trophy. In the same year we had another unforgettable scene in the history of ODI. In the league match Hendry Olanga of Zimbabwe dismissed Sachin with a bouncing delivery. But in the next match Sachin showed him how good he is. Hendry Olanga will never forget this in his life (I am certain). Oh you poor thing! Not just Hendry Olanga, we relished the battled between Sachin and many great bowlers such as Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Shoaib Aktar (who can forget that sixer in world cup 2003), Brett Lee, Muttiah Muralitharan, Wasim Akram and many more.

My affair with cricket and Sachin continued. Once I was walking in the streets of fort area in Bombay in 2002. It was a Sunday and a match was going on. By the side of the road a portable TV was placed and surrounded by cricket fans. While passing I causually peeped between the heads to check the score. Few minute later another passer by stopped and asked score kithna? Someone replied. He continued asking Sachin kithna? O 90 mein out ho gaya was the reply. He didn’t bother to stay there any longer and neither did I. We (Sachin fans), never bothered whether India won the match or not. We just wanted Sachin to score well or hit a ton or to rip apart the (supposed to be) great bowlers’ spells. For many of us Kapil Dev’s  175* was the best for ODIs until Sachin scored 200* and this will certainly remain forever. We didn’t really care even when this record was broken.

We never want him to get out. We did our parts (verging on superstition) so that he did not get out. Once I had 6 helpings of sambar sadam continuously to keep him going (in the earlier match when I choose Rasam sadam instead of Sambar he had got out early). My friend wouldn’t move from where he was sitting. He would not even let others move. Once he had moved and Sachin had really got out. This was during a test match at Chennai against Pakistan. We lost that match. My friend still thinks that it was mainly because he got up from the chair.

It is sad that he exit ODIs unceremoniously. But incidentally while I was watching that last ODI he played I was fiddling with my camera and took couple of shots of the TV screen when he appeared. He scored 50 in that match. But I never thought that that was going to be his last ODI. None of us had.

Sachin's Last ODI
Sachin’s Last ODI

I stopped watching ODIs after that. I am sure many of us did. I didn’t even feel like watching his last test match innings or his farewell speech. In recent times everything is shared on the net. Photos, videos and interviews or even we can buy disks of the whole cricket matches. So many television channels are going to telecast these matches again and again. You can see these things anytime you want.

The thrill of remembering a moment is missing now a days. I can be proud that I have seen Sachin playing great innings on that day and I still remember it. It is in my memory not just in photos and videos. Sachin Tendulkar. We will miss you. Thank you for the memories and Good bye!

ஒளிரும் காளான்கள்

ஒளிரும் காளான்கள்

பள்ளிப் பருவத்தில் என் வீட்டுக் கடிகாரத்தின் எண்களும் முட்களும் இரவில் பச்சை நிறத்தில் ஒளிர்வதைக் கண்டு வியந்திருக்கிறேன். வீட்டின் சாமி மாடத்தில் வேளாங்கண்ணி மாதாவின் சிறிய இளம்பச்சை நிற விக்கிரகம் இருக்கும். இரவில் மாதா ஒளிர்வதைக் கண்டு வியந்திருக்கிறேன். பிற்காலத்தில் உயிரில்லாத இப்பொருட்கள் ஒளிர்வதற்கான காரணம் ரேடியம் (radium) என்ற வேதியியல் தனிமம் எனவும், அதைக் கண்டுபிடித்த மேரி க்யூரி – பியர் க்யூரி தம்பதியரைப் பற்றியும் பள்ளிப் பாடப் புத்தகங்கள் வாயிலாக அறிந்துகொண்டேன்.

சிறு வயதில் கோடை விடுமுறையில் கிராமத்துக்குப் போனபோது, இரவு நேரங்களில் பச்சை நிறத்தில் மினுக்மினுக் என விட்டுவிட்டு எரிந்துகொண்டே மெல்லப் பறக்கும் மின்மினிப்பூச்சிகளைக் கண்டு வாய் பிளந்து பார்த்து வியந்திருக்கிறேன். இளஞ்சிவப்பிலும் இளம் பச்சையிலும் ஒளி வீசிக்கொண்டு தரையில் ஊர்ந்து செல்லும் செவ்வட்டை (glowworm) பூச்சியைக் கண்டு கண்கள் அகல விரியப் பார்த்து ஆச்சர்யப்பட்டிருக்கிறேன். இந்த ஒளி உமிழும் நிகழ்வு, உயிர்ஒளிர்வு (bioluminescence) எனவும் அதற்கான காரணி லூசிபெரேஸ் (luciferase) எனும் நொதியே (enzyme) என்பதையும் கல்லூரியில் படித்திருக்கிறேன்.

இந்த ஒளிரும் தன்மை காளான்களுக்கும் உண்டு. உலகில் சுமார் 71 வகையான காளான்கள் இப்படி ஒளி உமிழும் தன்மையைக் கொண்டிருப்பதாகத் தெரிகிறது. இந்தக் காளான்களின் வித்துகள் (spores) ஓரிடத்திலிருந்து மற்றோர் இடத்துக்குப் பரவுவதற்கு உதவும் பூச்சிகளையும் ஏனைய உயிரினங்களையும் கவர்வதற்காகவே இத்தகைய ஒளி உமிழும் தன்மையை இவை பெற்றிருக்கின்றன. இத்தன்மையை இவை எப்படிப் பெறுகின்றன? இவ்வகையான காளான்களின் திசுக்களில் உள்ள லூசிபெரேஸ் எனும் நொதியானது லூசிபெரின் எனும் கரிம மூலக்கூறில் ஆக்ஸிகரணத்தை (oxidation) ஊக்குவிக்கிறது. அப்போது, வேதியியல் மாற்றத்தின் விளைவால் ஏற்படும் அதிகப்படியான ஆற்றல் பச்சை ஒளியாக வெளியேறுகிறது. இதுவே அக்காளான்களின் திசுக்களை ஒளிரவைக்கிறது.

மேற்குத் தொடர்ச்சி மலைத்தொடரின் ஒரு பகுதியான ஆனைமலைப் புலிகள் காப்பகத்தில் தென்படும் பூஞ்சைகளையும் காளான்களையும் ஆவணப்படுத்தி சிறு நூல் ஒன்றைத் தயாரிக்கும் பணியில் எனது சக ஊழியர்களான ரஞ்ஜனி, திவ்யா, சங்கர் ராமன் ஆகியோருடன் ஈடுபட்டிருந்தேன். அந்நூலுக்காகக் காளான்களை எங்கு பார்த்தாலும் பல கோணங்களில் படமெடுத்துக்கொண்டிருந்தேன். அவற்றில் சில வகைக் காளான்கள் இரவில் ஒளிரும் தன்மையைக் கொண்டவை என்பதைப் படித்து அறிந்திருந்தேன். ஆனால் பார்த்ததில்லை. (அந்த நூலை இங்கே இலவசமாக பதிவிரக்கம் செய்துகொள்ளலாம்).

அண்மையில், ஒரு மழைக்கால மாலை நேரத்தில் களப்பணியை முடித்துவிட்டு வீடு திரும்பும் வேளையில், சாலையோரமாக வீழ்ந்து கிடந்த மரத்தில் கொத்தாக முளைத்திருந்த காளான்களைக் கண்டதும் உடனே வண்டியை நிறுத்தினேன். அருகில் சென்று பார்த்தபோது அது இரவில் ஒளிரும் காளான் வகை எனத் தெரிந்தது. அப்போதே இரவானதும் அக்காளானை வந்து பார்க்க வேண்டும் என முடிவு செய்தேன். வாகனப் போக்குவரத்து இல்லாத நடு இரவில் சக ஊழியர்கள் சிலருடன் அந்த இடத்தை அடைந்தேன். காளான் இருக்கும் இடத்துக்குச் சற்று முன்பே வண்டியை நிறுத்தி அதனருகே நடந்து சென்றேன்.

இரவில் பார்க்கக் கண்களை பழக்கப்படுத்திக்கொள்வதற்காக டார்ச் இல்லாமலேயே அதனருகில் சென்று பார்த்தேன். அந்த இடத்தில் மேகத்தால் மறைக்கப்பட்ட பிறை நிலவின் மெல்லிய ஒளி வீசியது. இருட்டில் ஒளிர்வதற்கான எந்த வித அறிகுறியும் இல்லாததைக் கண்டு சற்று ஏமாற்றமாகத்தான் இருந்தது. காளான்கள் வீசும் ஒளி கும்மிருட்டில்தான் நம் கண்களுக்குப் புலப்படும் என்பதை உணர்ந்து மழைக்காக எடுத்துவந்த குடையைப் பிடித்து அதனுள் இருந்த குடைக்காளான்களைக் கண்டேன். அந்தக் கும்மிருட்டில் அவை மெல்லிய இளம்பச்சை நிற ஒளியை உமிழ்வதைக் கண்டு எனக்கு மயிர்க்கூச்செறிந்தது. எதிர்பார்த்து வந்தது நிறைவேறியதில் அனைவருக்கும் மகிழ்ச்சி. இயற்கையின் எண்ணிலடங்கா அற்புதங்களில் ஒளி உமிழும் காளானும் ஒன்று. அதைப் பார்த்தது என் வாழ்வின் மறக்க முடியாத அற்புதங்களில் ஒன்று!

ஒளிரும் காளான்கள். படம் : கல்யாண் வர்மா
ஒளிரும் காளான்கள். படம் : கல்யாண் வர்மா

தி ஹிந்து தமிழ்  தினசரியில் 23 செப்டம்பர் 2013 அன்று வெளியான கட்டுரை. இதற்கான உரலி இதோ.

Mute Swan Moments

Mute Swan Moments

A commonly seen bird doesn’t really excite a local birdwatcher. Long time ago, a British birdwatcher visiting India said Red-vented Bulbul was his favourite. I said, ‘yeah they are nice birds’ but without much enthusiasm. When I went to UK, a local birdwatcher asked me which British bird I liked most. I replied instantly ‘Mute Swan’. He said, ‘alright, they are doing ok’. I could figure out that the tone was very similar to that of my response for that ‘boring and common’ bulbul. But he added, ‘but they are lovely, aren’t they?’ Indeed they are.

Mute Swan in Cam River
Mute Swan in Cam River

These birds became my favourite the moment I saw them in 2002 in the Cam River. Last year (September 2012) I had a chance to see these birds again, for a fairly long time. And the series of events that followed made my affection towards this bird even stronger. I spent a long time watching and photographing them in the Cam River. There were three cygnets (young Mute Swans) along with an adult. Mute Swans are a good subject for photography with their long neck and the white plumage reflecting on the ripples in the dark waters while they gracefully swim along the stream. Once in a while, they dipped their heads into the water to feed on the aquatic vegetation. Cygnets are dull greyish in colour. But they were certainly not ugly ducklings as folk lores portray.

Mute Swan with cygnets
Mute Swan with cygnets

I was in the UK to get trained in bird ringing. During my stay I had a chance to visit the British Birdfair. There the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) had a stall in which the volunteers explained to the visitors about bird ringing and demonstrated the technique with live, wild birds. To understand the importance of bird ringing by the public, they kept a box full of wrist bands on which a bird name and a ring number were printed.

I have been ringed as a Mute Swan..:)
I was ringed as a Mute Swan..:)

These were replicas of real rings put on birds during the demonstration. One could pick and wear a band of their choice. It meant that you had been ringed like that bird. Then you go with that band to the other BTO stall to find out some interesting facts about that particular ringed bird. Obviously, I choose a Mute Swan band and the ring number was W03598. I went to the BTO stall and showed my band. To my dismay I found that that bird was dead. I learnt that the bird had been hit by a golf ball when it was flying over the golf course! See the photograph below for more interesting facts.

Fact sheet of W03598
Fact sheet of W03598

My tryst with Mute Swan continued during my walk in a beautiful English countryside in East Sussex. I went crazy when I saw a Mute Swan swimming in the stream. A footpath ran parallel to the stream. I walked along keeping up my pace with the two Mute Swans swimming along the stream. That entire landscape wouldn’t have looked beautiful if these birds had not been there.

Mute Swan in English countryside
Mute Swan in English countryside

Something strange happened when I was following those birds. One of them raised its leg above the water and kept it in that position for a while. They do that once in a while to rest their legs. When I looked through the viewfinder of my camera I was surprised to see that it had been ringed! I quickly took some close-up shots and figured out the ring number—ZY2162. Soon after I got that photo it sank that leg back into the water. It was as if that bird raised its leg just to show me the ring number. Later when I informed this to the local ringing group I got to know that this bird had been ringed on 20th August 2011.

Showing off the ring!
Showing off the ring!

Another interesting thing which I noticed on that individual was that it was moulting and had lost its primary feathers. During this period individuals like these mostly stay in the water as they can’t fly too well and are vulnerable to predation by foxes.

Moulting individual without primary feathers
Moulting individual without primary feathers

Two days after that memorable sighting (6th November 2012), I was in the ringing hut busy ringing some passerines. Suddenly the ringers outside started cheering aloud and I instantly knew that they had captured an interesting bird. I came out and was awestruck to see a Mute Swan. We always want to touch the things which we really like. I fulfilled my wish by caressing the Mute Swan. When these kind of special birds are brought to the ringing hut, normally, they draw a lot from among the names of the participants present there written on pieces of paper. And guess whose lucky day that was? Yes, when they read out my name and said I got a chance to ring the bird I was over the moon.

Ringing a Mute Swan was a special moment. But it is not very easy to do that. Two people had to hold the bird while I put the ring. Since I had never ringed a Mute Swan before, other ringers around me helped enormously. Although my name is recorded in the register, I wouldn’t really boast that it was ringed by me alone. It was a collective effort. However, I was quite happy and thrilled that I got a chance to touch this beautiful bird once again. The ring number that I put on it was ZY2122. In case any of you see a Mute Swan with this ring number, do remember me!

Swan upping in East Sussex..:)
Swan upping in East Sussex! 

Mute swan was introduced in the US and now they are considered a pest. I personally don’t want to hate the Mute Swan even where it is non-native. But that is not possible in a biologist’s world. A biologist has to enjoy nature with discretion. This is a curse. We have so many specifications.

If someone in India says they like Lantana flowers, I would have given them a big lecture: “They are invasive plants, they are very bad, they don’t allow other plants to grow, they spread like hell, this is one of the serious problems now we are facing in Indian forests, this plant should be controlled, so on and so forth.” I hate to see Lantana in India, Eucalyptus in India. Likewise somewhere in some part of this earth somebody surely hates the Mute Swan for being non-native. Just the feeling that someone can hate these birds, makes me feel sad. Human beings did a mistake of introducing them in the places which are alien to them. And when they adapt themselves and flourish we call them invasive. Because of our mistake, those beautiful birds are losing their lives. Isn’t that awful?

Mute Swan at its native land
Swan and Shadow (Poem by John Hollander)

But when I was watching those beautiful Mute Swans beautifully swimming in that beautiful golden sun-lit stream, I thought to myself, I am watching the Mute Swans in their native land. Nobody around me to tell that, ’they are….

Lucky me!

Out of sight, but Not out of mind

Out of sight, but Not out of mind

February 2013 wasn’t pleasant. It was filled with departure and demise of dear ones. It started with the death of an elephant. She was found in a stream after many days of her death. Fishes in that stream and maggots on her body were having a feast. We couldn’t really tell which herd she belonged to. Several speculations were made—she could have been unwell, or that she probably slipped while crossing the stream, and so on. In the government records her passing on was registered as a “natural death”. May be it was.

'Natural death'
‘Natural death’:Photo: Ganesh Raghunathan

This was followed by the death of a leopard. A very young leopard was found dead amidst tea bushes. Again, the reason for her death was not clear. It was presumed that she was killed in a territorial fight with another adult leopard. Traces of blood and drag-marks were all over the place. She was half eaten. She was taken away for a postmortem.

Yet another 'natural death'
Yet another ‘natural death’

Individuals like these will continue to live in the government records, in a researcher’s field notebook, technical reports, and as photographs or newspaper articles. But there are certain deaths that will go unnoticed, even by us, and no one may even be aware that it happened—like the roadkill of a mouse deer that I saw in mid February. The driver of the vehicle might be aware of that or he/she may simply have heard some noise, a thud, or a squelch and moved on. Or the driver may not have even known that he/she had killed a living being. Few passers-by like me, in the middle of that night, probably noticed that dead mouse deer, or probably did not.

Incidents like these make us feel sad for a few minutes, hours or sometimes may even last for a few days. We may or may not remember these again. Even if we do remember, we may not feel the same way as we did when we first saw it. But if we know the individuals, if we are attached to someone or something or some place, if we feel the connection even if it is only one-way, then, when we lose any of them, the sense of loss will haunt us forever. Because, we are not just losing them, we are also losing the connections we once had with them. This will be painful, like how we feel at the demise of a friendship or a relationship; much more painful than the physical death of a friend.

Few years ago, while passing through Kavarkal, Divya said,”I am missing that guy ya”. Across the valley on a hill, in a degraded grassland patch, near the electric pylon, we used to often see a tusker grazing peacefully. She was referring to him. Some months after that, somewhere near that place a tusker was found dead. Anand went and looked at the decaying body but was unable to recognize that individual. He doesn’t want to conclude that it was that guy we used to see there. Before that death, even if “our guy” wasn’t seen there, we knew that he would be have been roaming elsewhere. But after that death, that hope slowly faded away. Even now, whenever I happen to pass through that place my eyes involuntarily look in that direction, scanning, searching for him, and remember Divya’s sentiment.

Our guy - The tusker
Our guy – The tusker: Photo Divya Mudappa

Similarly, usually while heading back to Valparai from Coimbatore, we stop at Nalumukku Sungam for a cup of tea. Nearly a year ago, on one such occasion I noticed that something was missing there. Sridhar said in a shocked tone, ”Damn, they cut that tree”. There used to be a large tamarind tree in one of the corners of Nalumuku Sungam. On the ground, no trace of that tree can be seen now. I never paid much attention to that tree until it was cut and removed from that place. There is a large void now. That tree would have been planted at least several decades if not a century ago. I miss that tree now. Sridhar has been commuting through this route for over a decade and he would certainly miss seeing this tree more than me. I wonder if (and hope) there is someone who lives in that town, who went and stood under the tree for its shade, or grew up along with that tree, or harvested the fruits from that tree, feels the same way or fondly remembers that tree. Those people probably miss that tamarind tree more than any of us do.

Pollachi-Valparai SH78 road near Vedasandur from 2003-2012: Imagery courtesy Google Earth

Then, there used to be a huge log near the Selaliparai club. Two years ago, just before the NCF annual meeting in Valparai, I remember Divya mentioning in a sad tone that a huge Calophyllum tree has fallen. This was a large tree, one of those identified as a heritage tree by us in this landscape. I only vaguely remember seeing that tree when it was alive and standing majestically. But I am more familiar with that only as a Calophyllum log, with its deeply fissured bark and heavily laden with epiphytes—just as majestic and alive horizontal as it was when vertical. In late February, while driving past that place we saw a crane about to lift that log and take it away. Now without that log, that place wears a desolate look. In coming days or months or years, when we go that way, we are sure to tell this story to others with us or sigh with sadness amongst ourselves.

There used to be a Calophyllum log...
This is that Calophyllum log…

I feel personally connected to that tusker, the tamarind tree and the Calophyllum log because I liked them. I knew that the connection was one-way, but I still feel bad when I don’t see them in their spots. But what if someone reciprocated the affection which we gave but suddenly vanished from our lives? Obviously, the magnitude of loss will be immeasurable, and drive us to despair. I realized this when Baby disappeared.


Baby was Anand’s cat. When he moved to a different house, although close by, Baby moved to Divya & Sridhar’s place. She also made our office her home. I am not a cat person. To be honest I was not fond of pets at all, until I met Baby. She was an exceptionally friendly cat. I often felt that she was a talking cat. I loved the way she greeted me when she saw me for the first time everyday. It was not just me. She was friendly with everyone over here. She captivated us with her sheer friendliness. It was a great feeling when she came to me and mewed in the middle of the night or gently tapped me with her soft forepaw to signal that she was hungry or wanted to play. She always liked to be with people, among people. I had not taken care of her all her life. Only on a few occasions or few days when the others were away. But she had had a deep impact on me. I can imagine how the true cat lovers and caretakers—Anand and Divya—would have felt when she suddenly disappeared one night. Soon after she was missing, for many days they would call-out for her, with hope and prayers. It was unbearable to hear their voices. She never turned up. It was unlike her not to respond or stay away from home. Although Divya kind of knew the minute she had disappeared since she had heard some scuffling noise outside. Divya had the feeling after hearing the noise outside that our neighbourhood leopard had paid a visit to our doorstep. It is nice to know that he is still around, but wish the evidence had been something else. Or maybe not. We do not know exactly what happened to Baby, but I hate to think that she has passed on.

Baby’s disappearance made me think of certain other things which went out of my sight and my life. But they will be etched in my memory for a long time to come.

Books on birds in Tamil

Books on birds in Tamil

Birds have fascinated human beings since early times. There have been many books, notes, and descriptions of birds and their behaviour in world literature, including several Indian languages. Birds have a special place in classical Tamil literature. Names given to some birds in ancient Sangam Tamil literature are still the same and in use (e.g., Koogai – Barn Owl and Thookanang Kuruvi – Weaver Bird). The famous old Tamil verse on White Stork, ‘Narai Narai Sengal Narai’, gives us a glimpse of the observation skill of the poet Sathi Mutha Pulavar on the migratory behaviour of this bird. Birds are mentioned even in Tamil film songs. For instance, I have made a list of twenty songs mentioning Chittu kuruvi or House Sparrow. Although there are mentions of various birds in old Tamil literature, proverbs, contemporary poems and film songs, and birds are also depicted in temple murals and other paintings, there are as yet few popular science books and field guides on birds in Tamil.

In recent times, efforts to popularise birds and their behaviour in Tamil were pioneered by the famous naturalist M. Krishnan. He wrote about birds and other wildlife of India in various Tamil magazines and newspapers. In 2002, Krishnan’s writings in Tamil were compiled by Theodore Baskaran, another accomplished nature writer in Tamil in the book Mazhaikalamum Kuyilosaiyum (The Monsoon and the Call of the Koel). M. Krishnan also wrote about birds for the Tamil Encyclopaedia Kalaikalangiyam, published in ten volumes between from 1954 to 1968 by the Tamil Valarchi Kazagam. These articles on birds have been compiled and brought out in the book Paravaigalum Vedanthangalum (Birds and Vedanthangal) by Tamil writer Perumal Murugan (read his foreword for this book here). This collection includes M. Krishnan’s booklet on Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, which was published in 1961 by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, an English version of which is available here.

Among the significant works on birds to emerge in Tamil after M. Krishnan, is the book “Theninthiyap Paravaigal” (South Indian Birds) authored by Dr. K. Ratnam, a retired Tamil professor. Published in 1974 by the Tamilnattu Padanool Niruvanam (Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation), this book was part of school and college curriculum for a while, but is now out of print. After this Ratnam also produced another important publication Tamizil Paravai Peyargal (Bird names in Tamil) in 1998. In this amazing work, he compiled Tamil names of 410 bird species, referring to various books and sources including M. A. Badshah’s Checklist of birds of Tamil Nadu with English, scientific and Tamil names. Ratnam coined new names for species that did not have common names. This book, which I clearly remember buying in 1995 at the the 8th World Tamil Conference book fair at Thanjavur, is one of my prized possessions. It is now available online for free download. Still, Ratnam’s landmark book came a few years later. Published in 2002, Tamilnattu Paravaigal (Birds of Tamil Nadu) became the first field guide for birds in Tamil, covering 328 birds species that occur in Tamil Nadu.

Bird books in Tamil by Dr. K. Ratnam

Other nature writers in Tamil, including S. Mohamed Ali, Theodore Baskaran, Athi Valliappan, and Kovai Sadasivam, have published several articles and books on birds. Another acclaimed work on birds in Tamil is by Asai, a modern Tamil poet who is a writer and editor of Cre-A publications. Asai’s Kondalathi (Tamil name for Eurasian Hoopoe), a collection of his poems about birds, is a pioneering work in modern Tamil poetry.

Kondalathi, Tamil poetry on birds by Asai, and Paravaigalum Vedanthangalum, a collection of M.Krishnan’s articles on birds in Tamil.

Cre-A Publications is one of the highly reputed publishing houses of South India. Apart from the well known Kriyāviṉ taṟkālat Tamiḻ Akarāti (Tamiḻ-Tamiḻ-āṅkilam): Cre-A Dictionary of Contemporary Tamil (Tamil-Tamil-English), Cre-A has published an impressive array of Tamil literary works and translations from other languages. Cre-A’s co-founder and managing editor, Cre-A S. Ramakrishnan, has also pioneered the publishing of books on nature and environment, such as Inthiavin Sutruchulal (1986), a  translation of The State of India’s Environment, Maram Valarpu (Tree Planting), and the famous Spiders: An Introduction by K. Vijayalakshmi and Preston Ahimaz.

I was pleasantly surprised therefore when Asai approached me with his idea of bringing out a dictionary of birds in Tamil to be published by Cre-A. He had made an initial draft of the manuscript with about 50 species of birds, taking help from Dr. R. Bhanumathi, an environment educationist experienced in the art of puppetry. The initial list was extracted from Cre-A’s Tamil Dictionary. Over the next few months, we worked together on developing this and decided to bring it out as a photographic field guide.

Paravaigal: Arimugak kaiyedu (Birds: Introductory field guide)

The result is Paravaigal: Arimugak kaiyedu (Birds: Introductory field guide) released in January 2013 at the 36th Chennai Book Fair. This compact (10.5 cm X 14 cm) guide contains photographs and brief accounts of 88 bird species commonly found in Tamil Nadu. The selected species are mostly those commonly seen in the plains and a few from hilly and coastal regions. The books carries 166 full-colour photographs of these birds taken in the field by famous wildlife photographers such as Ramki Sreenivasan, Radha Rangarajan, Kalyan Varma, Gnanaskandan, Vijay Ramanathan, and many others. To aid in bird identification, photographs taken in different angles to clearly show plumage and posture of the bird are used in the book. Wherever necessary, differences between the sexes, plumage variation during breeding and non-breeding seasons, and different morphs of the same species, are also illustrated through photographs. Descriptions to help birders identify birds in the field are given in simple language. Tamil names of birds sometimes differ from region to region and we mainly use the names given by K. Ratnam, while mentioning any alternative common names. For each species, brief descriptions of habitat, ecology, and behaviour are given. Here are a couple of sample pages from this guide:

This guide is produced for anyone who are fascinated by birds and want to learn about birds. Besides the species accounts and photographs, there is a detailed introduction to the classification, nomenclature, and history of Indian ornithology. The book also lists various Indian research institutions, including those that offer courses on ornithology. To help birdwatchers who wish to know more, there is also a list of other field guides on Indian birds, tips on  birdwatching and bird identification using calls, plumage and nests. There are brief sections on bird migration, conservation, importance of birds, list of bird sanctuaries and links to Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) in Tamil Nadu and other books on birds in Tamil.

This book is a collective effort of many people. I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Athi Valliappan and Mr. Theodore Baskaran for their comments on the draft, all the photographers who generously contributed their wonderful photographs, Mr. Balaji for designing this book attractively, other staff of Cre-A for their help in various ways, and Divya and Sridhar for their encouragement. This book was a brainchild of Cre-A and I thank Mr. S. Ramakrishnan and Mr. Asai for giving me this opportunity.

To buy this book contact Cre-A. Email: (Tel: 044 – 42020283)