Published: 01st September 2021
Call of the hills: WWF India's comic book on the Nilgiri tahr is as eye-pleasing as it is informative
If you ask us, the majestic State Animal of Tamil Nadu Nilgiri tahr is the protagonist of the book Valli’s Nilgiri Adventures. Grab the book for a truly immersive tour of the hills
Having been born and brought up in the Nilgiris, Arthy Muthanna Singh has seen most of the wildlife that the lush green hills are known for. But alas, the majestic Nilgiri tahr has continued to elude her. In a classic case of 'what you seek is seeking you', the varaiaadu (the name the Tamil locals know this animal by) has found a way to her and her partner-in-crime Mamta Nainy in a serendipitous way. At the behest of the World Wide Fund for Nature India (WWF India), the duo authored a comic book titled Valli’s Nilgiri Adventu
After this illustrious launch of their sixth book with WWF India, Arthy and Mamta, who are Founder-Partners of SYLLABLES27, an independent publishing venture, told us about how kicked they were to tell the story of Valli, a shy albeit curious soul who is off on a trip to the Nilgiri Hills with her classmates. One glance at the book and the illustrations are what stand out, done alluringly by Aniruddha Mukherjee. Though this is essentially a comic book, Mukherjee's watercolour illustrations lend a special character to wispy clouds and verdant slopes. "As a result, the book is aesthetically pleasing and offers readers an armchair trip to these hills," shares Mamta.
Arthy and Mamta
Valli is an intuitive schoolgirl with fun friends and wise teachers who are off on a trip to the Nilgiris. "In any random wildlife-themed book one picks up, the protagonist is a boy. So, we came up with this character of an introverted girl who is as shy as the Nilgiri tahr, who is our protagonist," says Arthy. The children’s conversations during the bus trip about Mukurthi National Park, where they are headed, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, montane grasslands and more are particularly enriching. But all the wealth of information is weaved into the story so masterfully that it rarely feels heavy-handed. Radhika Suri, Director, Environment Education, WWF India, chimes in to say why exactly that is, "Conservation seems like a very complex term. With books like these, our aim is to break it down for children." And for those whose appetites are not satiated with the story, there is a whole lot of handy information at the end of the book.
Whether Valli is able to spot the elusive Nilgiri tahr is a question only the book can answer, but along the way, the adventures the children encounter is a journey on its own — like when they spot Naveen and his very wise grandfather Kuttan from the Toda tribe sporting a red, black and white shawl that is associated with their tribe. Arthy, who has been a publisher with Scholastic India, says, "Unless children are exposed to traditional handloom or even wildlife for that matter, early on, it is difficult to teach them later." Mamta adds that the unique Toda homes, their handloom, songs, folklore and culture are intricately interlinked with the tahr.
"The book is all about observation and discovery. Children are intuitively interested in wildlife and they just need someone to share their excitement. We hope that this book can be a guide to them in that sense," says the duo. So, the next time you visit Ooty, don't just go for the tea estates, the Ooty Botanical Gardens or the chocolates, pay a visit to Mukurthi National Park, Upper Bhavani Lake and other natural wonders of the hill station. And who knows? Maybe you'll get the chance to spot the elusive Niligiri tahr.
For more on them check out wwfindia.