25 September, 2020

Wild Fictions

How literature, legends and folklore have influenced our responses to nature and wildlife -- sometimes with happy results, as in the Sunderbans, and at other times with disastrous consequences, as with Project Tiger

Wild Fictions
If there is anything distinctive about human beings, as a species, it consists, I believe, in our ability to experience the world through stories. What then are the tales that animate the struggle over Nature that is now being waged all around the world? Here is one such: it is called The Indian Hut and is said to have been a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi’s[1]. This is how it begins: ‘Some thirty years ago, a group of English scholars formed a society in London with the purpose of advancing the sciences and furthering the happiness of mankind by seeking knowledge in different parts of the world[2].’ There were twenty such scholars, and in order to better direct their inquiries, the Royal Society gave each of them a book containing 3,500 urgent and important queries. The most learned of these savants knew Hindi as well as Hebrew and Arabic and he set off in the direction of India, ‘the cradle of all the arts and all the sciences’.[3] After three years of travel, he came finally to Banaras, ‘the Athens of India’[4], where he...


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