Nono , The Snow Leopard -Pranav Trivedi and Maya Ramaswamy

I was helping Nimesh organize his cupboard yesterday when I came across this book and my curiosity was piqued. I've been reading books that could have children in mind as the readers and found myself enjoying them thoroughly, while my neighbour on his way to work throws suspicious glances at this 30 year old engrossed in an illustrated book!  

Nono, the snow leopard follows a language and style that departs from my last read of a book for children , The Myna from The Peacock Garden. And of course it would, and one among the many reasons would be the fact that  there is a very clear intent behind the book apart from trying to be an entertaining read or a demonstration of story telling .  The Snow Leopard Trust , speaks of the book as the A touching and educational story about a biologist's struggle to conserve the endangered snow leopard in a human-dominated environment.  However, my reading of it has lead me to see it differently. The charecter of the biologist rightly occupies the sidelines. On the fore along with the snow leopard is the journey of individuals in the landscape. A few who are part of the initiative to conserve the snow leopard and other's who are grappling with the growing currency of conservation and the changes in lifestyle it calls for.

Through Dorje, who follows and studies the radio collared snow leopards, one meets a variety of characters. Namgyal  , Lama and Lobsang to name a few. His journeys also introduces to the reader the snow covered landscape and the life thriving in it. His reservations about Namgyal , their confrontations and subsequent discussions remind me of the trips  within Mizoram that I’ve been part of. How does someone local speak against a long standing practice such as hunting? What are his conflicts and roadblocks? How do his peers see him?

The very arduous treks that Dorje has to undertake, also introduces the readers to the life around, wild and otherwise. Names of some animals , birds  and plants along with some others are explained crisply in the glossary. I get a feel that some terms like foraging instead of plain looking for food is used intentionally. Probably to serve as an initiation for the 8 year olds and above (the stated audience for the book) to some of the terminology around. I'm not an eight year old or anywhere close , but I'd say the sprinkling of such terms is tender and non threatening.  Additionally, and if I might add essentially , what also gains prominence in the book are conversations between Dorje and Lobsang , a 12 year old boy. The kid moves around with Dorje for a few days in the tracking process. But the occasions where Dorje launches of into sermons on conservation are thankfully absent. The tendency for nutty adults seems to be preaching and where such interactions lead is usually to a resounding snore from the audience. But , the interactions as traced in this charming little book are in the form of discussions and observations, questions and answers shared during a journey. Infact, i'm reminded of a favorite line often thrown by a Lecturer in my college days All that is taught is not caught and all thats caught is not taught. 

I'm just a little better off than ignorant on  landscapes like these, and have just about read a bit here and there about the snow leopard in particular. However, its surprising to see how easily the illustrations transform this cat as the ghostly presence it is often described as. Pleasantly enough , through the narration and illustrations other birds and animals get their space. 

There are many more facets to this book that i found interesting but this post has gained quite a length already. The  labour put into this book  is evident and without being familiar with the people involved or the work  one can almost hear some of the  discussions that might have preceded the inclusion of certain events in the narrative and thankfully nothing I read in the book seems to have crept in by accident or without a conscious thought and that makes my experience of reading this worthwhile.

As usual, I'd think books like this one would make for a good read for children and adults.  

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