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Wild City: Natural Wonders Next Door

I am reminded of Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes fame), half-submerged in dirt, digging for buried treasure – and his delight at finding dirty rocks and grubs – “there is treasure everywhere,” he exclaims with unrestrained glee.
Ranjit Lal portrays the same earnestness and pleasure as he unearths, and shares, the treasure he finds, in places unexpected: golden bull frogs that serenade through the night, flamingos moving like pink chiffon scarves caught in a breeze...all in the grimy, polluted cities in which you and I eke an existence.

Wild City is an utterly charming book, written with wit, intelligence, and a fondness for the subject, making even the mundane come alive. Why else, after reading the book, would you look with interest at insects (did you know grasshoppers make music to impress the fairer sex?) instead of the mandatory reaction to flick-if-not-squash them? Birds and the like are endearingly humanised – the famous baya is a “hot shot property dealer who weaves a magnificent edifice, while reliable gossip has it that papa owl might occasionally sneak into the burrow next door for a quite canoodle with the golden-eyed nymphet living there.” Humourous, and at times downright cynical, but always accurate; who else could compare the embrace of a strangular fig on a forest tree, to a country in the clutch of politicians? Lal displays a remarkable sensitivity towards the animal world, equalled by a scathing attitude towards our treatment of it, “I saw the raptors in their open-door cages, in leg-irons of course, baffled rage in their eyes,” and wonder if, “maybe we put the wrong creatures behind bars.”

An enchanting read, this book opens new vistas right at your doorstep. The urban metropolis – smog, traffic jam, et al suddenly promises to be a wonderful place to live in... and explore. (PSB)
By Ranjit Lal
Published by Penguin, Softcover, 282 pages, Rs. 275

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