The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

Pranay Lal, author of Indica, says every stone has a story to tell

Pranay Lal spins rocky yarns   | Photo Credit: S. Narayana Swamy

It is challenging to tell an engaging story about rocks, but Pranay Lal has looked at enough mountains, basalt formations and fossils in the Indian subcontinent for over 22 years to come up with fascinating tales. The author of Indica: A Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent shared some of these stories in The Hindu Lit for Life session named after the book on Day 1.

Rocks came to life in his tales. For Lal, a biochemist-turned-geology researcher, it is rocks that give India a unique geological history that should make it one vast museum. It is especially unfortunate that India does not have enough museums that would teach us more about our natural history. Lal lamented that our education system does not encourage curiosity. This can be addressed, he said, “by de-schooling policy and encouraging critical thinking.”

Lal travelled extensively all over the country in his quest for stones and fossils. His discoveries changed a few misconceptions. For instance, he found fossils of custard apples, indicating that they are not really an exotic fruit introduced to India by the Portuguese, as commonly thought.

So, how to increase our awareness of our natural history? While promotion through museums and textbooks is a solution, there are certain dilemmas to be faced here. Should rare fossils be brought to the public’s attention, risking their destruction as unsustainable tourism takes over, or left unmarked, to be, in all probability, built over by property developers?

An easier solution is to become more conscious of the world around us so that we start noticing things not seen before. Lal exhorted the audience to look carefully at rocks, at the wealth of fossils hidden in plain sight.“The next time you look out of the the train window, notice the many layers of different rocks that tell a story,” he said


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 2:19:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/pranay-lal-author-of-indica-says-every-stone-has-a-story-to-tell/article22472369.ece

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