Book review: Capturing Wildlife Moments in India by Ashok Mahindra

The first thing that strikes you as you pick up this book is the steely, if slightly contemptuous, eyes of Ustad (T-24), the largest dominant tiger of Ranthambhore. At the time of writing this post, Ustad’s life hangs precariously for killing a forest official and he may be declared a man-eater, if proven.

Ashok Mahindra, by a chance of fate, had chosen to keep this magnificent yet notorious beast as the cover page of his coffee table book. It is almost as if he knew Ustad was to become infamous for his deeds.

The book is a riveting collection of the author-photographer’s best moments spent in the wild, right from the rolling dales of Valparai in the south to the tall elephant-grass strewn swamplands of Kaziranga in the north-eastern part of the country. He has rightfully dedicated the book to the young adults, beseeching them to take care of the threatened species before it is too late. His passion for wildlife is evident in the ‘Thirteen ways forward’, brought about by years of observing the ways of men and nature in India.

The photographs, taken during his various jaunts to wildlife sanctuaries across the country, tell stories that do not need words to describe. Each of these photographs come captioned with the location - where it was shot, the status of the animal/bird on the IUCN list and a brief note informing the reader about the particular characteristics and behaviour of the animal/bird. In some, the author has also given his personal experiences behind a shot.

Besides mammals and birds, the author has also included pictures of reptiles, frogs, insects and even that of a mudskipper, duly providing nuggets of information to the reader. In one memorable shot, he has covered a spotted deer (mammal), a gigantic marsh crocodile (reptile) and a startled lapwing (bird) in a single frame, depicting the diversity and synergy of wildlife. The book is also interspersed with broad landscape and habitat shots, showcasing the beauty of the jungles. 

Towards the end, the author has provided details of camera and techniques he had employed, for the benefit of those who are interested, as well as wildlife hotspots in the country and places to stay. 

If I had to critique this beautiful coffee table book, I would say that perhaps instead of placing photographs of the same animal (say the elephant and the tiger) randomly through the book, he could have placed them together so that the reader could understand the behavioral pattern  of the animal better. Also, inclusion of scientific names would have been an added bonus.

I hope the book finds its place amongst the younger generation and fulfills the objective of Mr. Mahindra.

"This post is a part of the book review program of at Saevus Wildlife India in association with The Hemchand Mahindra Wildlife Foundation for the book Capturing Wildlife Moments in India" 


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