Book Review: Birds Of Chandbagh - A Guide To birding At The Doon School

First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. 42 No. 8, August 2022
By Vijayaditya Singh Rathore (Batch of 2020)
Self-published by author
Hard Cover, 276 pages, Rs. 1,200/-

I have much more faith in the young than I do in my generation. Books such as this, professional in every imaginable way, bring nature alive in the minds and hearts of young and old alike.

Beautifully printed, bound and designed, it’s difficult to believe at first that Birds of Chandbagh was written when the author was a Grade 12 student shuttling through Jodhpur, Dehradun and some of India’s finest Protected Areas. When I saw him at the Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, he told me that he and his family had JUST seen a streak of tigers (which we missed!) and promised to send me his book. He did just that and I hold it in my hands from time to time as I write this review.

Trust the young to adapt! The book no doubt serves as a bird guide, but it is embellished with QR codes for every bird he has included to enable birders to hear the actual bird calls and learn of their distribution. Try it out!

Ashish Chandola (Batch of 1970) writes in the book: “My advice to any young person who wants to enter the field of wildlife documentation and filmmaking would be to buck the present trend and not mess with wildlife but first, get proper training.”  He goes on to offer more sage advice: “The WELFARE of your subject comes FIRST... NEVER be overconfident and put yourself in a vulnerable situation. If you are injured, hurt, or even killed, people will not say that you did something stupid. Instead, the common refrain will be that wild animals are dangerous.”

Clearly wise beyond his years, Vijayaditya represents hope for some of us old warriors who still fight tough battles to prevent wild India from being mismanaged to death.

If you visit, or live in Dehradun, you would do well to buy this book. It’s seriously useful, with good images and illustrations that would make any bird guide proud. It also contains perspectives from old Doon School boys recalling their time in a campus that is still one of the finest birding spots in the city.

Shiv Kunal Verma, (Doon School Batch 1976), a friend and naturalist who wrote Foreword II, put it well when he said: “Vijayaditya… and all those who stepped up to the plate to encourage and help him, you have taken a tremendous step, the implication of which even you perhaps do not realise yet. Be it birds, trees, animals, insects of fish… they are so vital, they remain a part of each one of you.”

Vikramaditya, thank you for being you. May all Doscoes keep learning to tell the time and seasons by bird calls, as you did.

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Reviewed by Bittu Sahgal


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