‘Catch them young and watch them grow’ is a common phrase used to inculcate good habits among children. This is easier said than done in today’s digital age where they are exposed to all kinds of information right from a tender age.
But, there are some mediums that can work wonders, and drawing and colouring are some of them.
Taking a cue from here, ecologist and wildlife photographer, Nirmal Kulkarni, has come up with a colouring book for children, Wild Jewels of Mhadei, which is a book catering to children from the age group of 5 to 10 years.
DOCUMENTING LOCAL FLORA & FAUNA
Kulkarni says the inspiration for this book came from his daughter, Naia, who started drawing by copying his field guides.
“This was the beginning of a discussion between me and my wife Assavri (who is an artist and photographer) about compiling a colouring book of our very own Mhadei region. Interestingly, there are excellent visual and photography books on Goa’s biodiversity in the state. Wild Jewels of the Mhadei is unique as it has beautiful photographs as well as illustrations to colour, thus enabling children to know the species as well as use their imagination,” says Kulkarni.
He also adds that being an artist first he has learnt that colouring and drawing creates a much larger impact on the mind than anything else. “It also helps document and register thoughts, ideas and events in life. Perhaps this is why cave art and rock art has carvings of various species.”
The book contains an amazing collection of 30 species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, herbs and flowers. It has focused on endangered and unique species which are also colourful (since this is a colouring book) and which children will see if they walk the forests of the Mhadei.
The book lays emphasis on some common, but important, yet lesser known species like the Malabar Torrent Dart (damselfly), the Deccan Mahsheer (fish) and the Indian Pitta (bird).
“My favourites, the Malabar Gliding Frog and the Ornate Flying Snake are there, too. Besides these, Goa’s state animals – like the Indian Gaur and the state bird, the Black Crested Bulbul – find a place in the book. Each image is also accompanied by a short write up,” says Kulkarni.
The illustrations in the book have been done by Nitesh Parulekar, except for two frogs, which have been done by artist, Fabian Gonsalves.
The book has an excellent collection of images by various photographers and researchers like Parag Rangnekar, Dhananjay Jadhav, Omkar Dharwadkar, Praveen Siddannavar, Raman Kulkarni, Niranjan Sant, Rahul Alvares, KP Dinesh and Vidyadhar Atkore.
FOR THE NEXT GENERATION
Kulkarni, who loves to conduct nature trails for children, sees a lot of hope in the next generation. Says he, “Goa now has a dedicated group of conservationists who are already taking biodiversity of important forests, like the Mhadei and Mollem, closer to the younger generation through walks, talks and exploration programs.”
“My wish and aim was also to help aid and support their work. Yes, it certainly helps to create awareness and consciousness and can be a great visual aid to anyone who walks our forests,” adds Kulkarni.
Kulkarni, believes that due to his daughter and exploring the wild spaces with her, he has found another perspective to look at our biodiversity.
“Naia, now 8-years-old, has taught me my lessons in birding (I am a snake man and knew very little about birds untill she took up birding!). She has also shared her skills of inquisitiveness and enjoyment in nature – something that, as a researcher, was disconnected from, as I tend to look at things through a science lens. Now, there are walks that we, as a family, take just to enjoy the scenery or see a sunset. That, for me, has been a huge change,” states Kulkarni.
He also shares that children in Goa have this opportunity to explore their own backyards and neighbourhoods and watch butterflies and birds. This will, in turn, help them to grow up as nature-conscious individuals for a better Goa.
Kulkarni, who has walked in the jungles of Mhadei for more than two decades, says, “The Mhadei is our Mother River. She nurtures and nourishes us, cares for us through her criss-cross network of streams, waterfalls and rivulets. I have walked, lived, documented and stared in awe at her beauty for over two and half decades now. I have seen her change, too, with new challenges as well as celebrations.”
“While issues like climate change, erratic weather patterns and the diversion projects loom large over this river and its existence, the Mhadei is still revered, studied and depended upon by a multitude of denizens, human as well as wild. My fascination with the River Mhadei is a very old connection with her forests and streams, reptiles and valleys, and every aspect is magical in a way,” he explains.
“The Mhadei region, which spans the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, is a hotspot of biodiversity. It is also home to me, now. Culturally and historically too, this region is special and it is this unique mix that draws me to her folds, time and again. It is this aspect that we must acknowledge and understand and share amongst fellow Goans, and more importantly, the next generation,” adds Kulkarni.
‘Wild Jewels of Mhadei’ is available at Literati Bookstore (Candolim), Green Essentials Store (Sucorro and Benaulim). For more details, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org