Up the Mountains of India by Mala Kumar is inspired by different fields of knowledge such as geology, history, botany, geometry, meteorology, etc.
Are you more beach or mountain? People often ask this question when learning about other people’s favorite vacation destinations. I was more of a beach person, but I’m becoming a mountain person – the kind who gazes dreamily at the peaks of a distant cafe and admires their beauty, but has no interest in climbing or climbing them. conquer.
If you too are a mountaineer, check out Mala Kumar’s new book In the mountains of India (2022) published by Hachette India. It aims to take you on “a fun and factual trek through the major ranges of the country” – the Himalayas, Trans-Himalayas, Aravallis, Vindhyas, Satpuras, North Eastern Mountains, Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats.
Kumar writes: “Humans are largely dependent on mountains for their essential supply of fresh water, hydroelectricity, wood and food. Mountains affect climate around the world by letting in or blocking monsoon winds. She also points out that many species of animals, birds, insects, trees and plants – and human beings, of course – inhabit mountains.
We are told that in 2016 Javed Ahmed, Rajashree Khalap and Sumukha JN “discovered a species of spider that resembled the Sorting Hat in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter stories”. This species was found in a sacred grove in the Western Ghats, specifically in the Shivamogga district of Karnataka. Since these three people are Harry Potter fans, they named the spider “Eriovixia gryffindori”. Rowling was very happy when she heard this. Kumar, who sounds like a Potter fan herself, writes: “This spider is a clever little mimic and can look like a piece of dry leaf; with this camouflage, he certainly doesn’t need an invisibility cloak.
She also identifies several communities that live in the mountains, depend on them for their livelihood and also revere them. Among them are the Sherpas, “an ethnic people descended from the first settlers of the Tibetan plateau around 6,000 to 9,000 years ago”. If you are passionate about trekking in the Himalayas, you might even have come across them.
Kumar adds, “Their nimble feet, unusual physical endurance in high altitude conditions, knowledge of the mountains and ability to read the weather accurately made them the most trusted travel guides in the high Himalayas.” However, she also cautions us against the idea that all Sherpas take on the same job. Stereotyping is best avoided.
In this book you will also learn about the Idu Mishmi tribe in the far north of Arunachal Pradesh. They “protect and maintain” the forests of the Mishmi hills “at the junction of the northeastern Himalayas and the Indo=Myanmar ranges”. I was surprised to read about the existence of animals called “binturongs”. Kumar mentions that they are also called “bearcats” although they are neither cats nor bears. The gourmet in her gives us some unusual and hilarious information. Apparently, binturongs “smell like buttered popcorn”.
I enjoyed the book because it draws inspiration from different fields of knowledge such as geology, history, botany, geometry, meteorology, etc. The author brings facts and figures but always balances them with stories and anecdotes. Having written over 40 children’s picture books and edited many more for over a decade, she knows how to hold the reader’s attention. There is no room for boredom even if his book cannot be called a page-turner.
In this book, you will discover ancient Buddhist kingdoms, rhododendron blooming pakoras, a floating national park, rock-cut sculptures, ice stupas, a cave used by thieves to hide their valuables, and hot springs in the mountains. You will meet mountaineers, conservationists, engineers, historians, traders, authors and travelers – all of whom have contributed in one way or another to our current understanding of the mountains of India .
Can there be a book on mountains in India without any discussion of hill stations and mountain railways? Certainly not! The author writes about the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Matheran Hill Railway and “other train journeys which show the mountains of India”. An example is the Sanghamitra Express between Bengaluru and Pataliputra, which “crosses the hills and forests of the Satpura range before reaching Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh”. As you can see, Kumar is a gifted writer who knows exactly how to evoke the spirit of a place and excite us all.
Kumar also draws attention to the threats facing mountains and what we can do to take care of them. His list of ideas includes mindful hiking, nature journaling, learning from people who live in the mountains, buying “ethical products” made in the mountains, and visiting wildlife sanctuaries and parks in the mountains. hills to help them earn money. I was happy to read this list as it made me revisit memories of being in McLeodganj, Dharamkot and Bhagsu. In addition to the mountains, I was moved by people who volunteered to clean up the mountains, pick up trash left by hikers, and bring it back for recycling or safe disposal. They are beautiful places but we need to stop littering to make sure they stay beautiful.
Chintan Girish Modi is a journalist, commentator and book reviewer.