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BOOK Sandesh Kadur and Kamal Bawa bring alive the Eastern Himalayas in their book

BALANCING ACT A scientist and photographer come together to create a coffee-table book to make sure every one gets the message of conservation Photo: Murali Kumar K.
BALANCING ACT A scientist and photographer come together to create a coffee-table book to make sure every one gets the message of conservation Photo: Murali Kumar K.

The photographer-scientist duo of Sandesh Kadur and Dr. Kamal Bawa have brought to light the Eastern Himalayas in their recent book, Himalaya — Mountains Of Life .

Through breathtaking images and nuggets of information, the reader goes on a journey from the plains of the Brahmaputra and the great canyon of Yarlung Tsangpo to the Siang Gorge and the Kali Gandaki gorge. “There’s mystery surrounding the mountains and a lot of biodiversity,” explains Sandesh, an award-winning photographer and filmmaker.

Journey of discovery

Sandesh’s expedition to the Himalayas was a “process of discovery”. He had already worked with Dr. Bawa before for Sahyadris — India’s Western Ghats — A Vanishing Heritage . And, when in 2007 he visited Gurudongmar Lake with Dr. Bawa, and the latter asked him to work on another book, he could not refuse. “The Lake was beautiful with the placid reflection of the mountain range. In a high-elevation, low-oxygen state of mind, I said ‘why not?’”

Every photograph requires patience and tenacity, explains Sandesh. “I had to deploy camera traps to capture certain images. We went on expeditions to photograph places that were difficult to get to. But the waiting paid dividends,” he says.

Why a coffee-table book? “How do you get your message out to a bigger audience and bring the conservation angle to a greater platform? You marry them with beautiful images,” says Sandesh.

Sandesh came across creatures such as the twin spotted frog, the green rat snake, an atlas moth with a 12-inch wing span, golden langurs and the Arunachal Macaque that was discovered fairly recently. He also discovered new species such as the Japalura lizard. It wasn’t just animals that Sandesh photographed, but the inhabitants too, such as the lesser-known Milang tribe of Nagaland and the Apatani tribal women, among others.


Dr. Bawa’s introduction to the Himalayas was 52 years ago when he went to do his masters in orchids. “I understood the diversity of the Himalayas. We are blessed in India to have so much diversity,” he says. Biologists have identified about 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world. “India has four of these. Sikkim is about one-twentieth the size of the Western Ghats, but it has almost the same richness of life. There are more than 100 species each of primulas and of rhododendrons and over 900 species of orchids in the Eastern Himalayas. Diversity sustains millions of people,” explains Dr. Bawa, a professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and president of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).

Dr. Bawa also speaks about the threats to biodiversity. “There needs to be a more nuanced understanding. Conservation is not only about tigers and elephants,” he says. About the role of photography in conservation, Sandesh says: “The Yellowstone National Park, was declared a National Park on the basis of photographs. Powerful images can bring about change.”

(Himalaya: Mountains Of Life is published by ATREE and is priced at Rs. 3,500.)





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