Book Review: ‘A Walk Up The Hill’ by Madhav Gadgil

Nature's Echoes and Ecologist's Insights


Book Title: A Walk Up The Hill: Living with People and Nature
Author: Madhav Gadgil
Publisher: Penguin Allen Lane
Number of Pages: 412
ISBN: 978-0670097043
Date Published: Aug. 21, 2023
Price: INR 645

A Walk Up The Hill by Madhav GadgilBook Cover

Book Review

In “A Walk Up The Hill: Living with People and Nature,” Madhav Gadgil offers readers a multifaceted memoir that traverses a life dedicated to ecological causes woven through a tapestry of diverse communities and experiences. The book is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts, seamlessly blending anecdotes of elephants, birds, and regional histories that beckon to the avid adventurer. Moreover, those drawn to environmental literature will find solace in Gadgil’s meticulous documentation of his work and encounters.

Gadgil’s journey begins with his move from Pune to Harvard, where his academic pursuits align with his deep passion for nature. Escaping the confines of rigid exam structures, Gadgil sought refuge in the arms of the Harvard environment and scholars like Edward Wilson and Oppenheimer. He reminisces about early memories, such as treks in the awe-inspiring Western Ghats, forging an enduring connection with the natural world from a tender age.

The book goes beyond personal reflections, delving into Gadgil’s interactions with tribal communities in the northeastern region of India. His candid accounts unveil the challenges faced by these communities, particularly in strife-torn Manipur. Gadgil’s ecology exploration extends to his influential report for the Union forest ministry, centering on the ecology of the Western Ghats—a topic of paramount significance.

The memoir also encapsulates Gadgil’s deep-seated familial and academic influences. His upbringing in a liberal family, influenced by stalwarts like Salim Ali, laid the foundation for his lifelong dedication to ecological preservation. A pivotal aspect of his journey is his partnership with Sulochana, his classmate, and later his wife, who shared his aspirations and played an instrumental role in creating a home in academia.

Gadgil’s narrative highlights his return to India during the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War, defying the brain drain trend. His work spans a spectrum of projects—from tiger conservation at Bandipur to bamboo studies—each a testament to his unyielding commitment to safeguarding the natural world. Gadgil’s encounters with like-minded individuals who championed the cause of nature conservation further enrich the narrative, showcasing the transformative power of collective action.

The memoir culminates in Gadgil’s standing as one of India’s eminent ecologists and environmental scientists. His journey is woven from the fabric of actions and research, bridging his formative years in Pune to his present. With heartwarming anecdotes and reflections, Gadgil’s prose underscores the symbiotic relationship between nature and the communities living in harmony with it.

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In a world grappling with environmental challenges, Madhav Gadgil’s life story serves as a beacon of inspiration. “A Walk Up The Hill: Living with People and Nature” encapsulates a narrative of research, activism, and an unwavering devotion to the planet. It is a compelling testament to the transformative potential of one individual’s pursuit of ecological harmony.

In “A Walk Up The Hill: Living with People and Nature,” Madhav Gadgil intricately intertwines his experiences amidst India’s landscapes with his role as an ecologist and environmentalist. The book illuminates his profound connection with nature and the communities in these terrains, encompassing encounters with dancing peacocks, wandering elephants, coastal fisher folk, and rural farmers. Gadgil’s narrative reflects his commitment to conservation, sustainability, and the delicate balance between human actions and the natural world, exemplified by his work preserving the Western Ghats.

Readers are transported into a realm through this enthralling account where personal journeys merge with the larger discourse on our relationship with the environment.

A recommended book!

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