I attended a talk show featuring Pradip Krishen, the author of The Trees of Delhi. The event took place at ITC Rajputana, the usual venue for the write circle events. The Write Circle in Jaipur organizes talk shows featuring famous writers, authors, and notable personalities in Jaipur. The show was moderated by Arijit Banerjee, a forester in Indian Forest Service. I have read & enjoyed one of the books written by Pradip Krishen – Trees of Delhi, a field guide.
Who Is Pradip Krishen?
Pradip Krishen is a tree lover, author, environmentalist, and filmmaker. He made a few documentaries and films during the initial years of his career. The most famous film he directed was Massey Sahab. He authored two very famous books – Trees of Delhi and Jungle Trees of Central India. The former earned great reviews and was an instant hit. Pradip Krishen is the husband of the famous writer, environmentalist and political activist – Arundhati Roy.
Trees of Delhi book is an excellent resource for the tree and nature lovers in Delhi. I’m impressed with his work considering he is not a botanist. So when the opportunity presented itself to attend this event, I decided not to miss.
It is interesting to note that Pradip Krishen made a switch in his career during his mid-life. From a documentary maker to an ardent tree lover is quite a journey. He spoke at length about his years in Delhi and Panchmarhi in MP, during which he started noticing and paying attention to trees. During few years he spent in forests in Madhya Pradesh, he would often walk with his friend which he termed as “Latin walk”. They would try to identify a tree and his friend would come up with their name in Latin. He simply fell in love with trees. He is not a botanist but his knowledge about trees is no less than one! Pradip Krishen has led many tree walks in Delhi.
Pradip Krishen spoke about his experiences during the development of Rao Jodha Desert Park in Jodhpur in 2006. He was a catalyst in developing this project on the invitation of the royal family of Jodhpur. The entire rocky area of this desert national park was dominated by “Bavaliya” trees, a nickname coined by Jodhpur locals for Prosopis Juliflora also called Kikar.
This invasive was tree introduced in India by Britishers from South America during the 1920-30s. The tree is known as a tough fighter and blooms in the harshest conditions. How this tree was planted in Jodhpur during the 1930’s in interesting too! The Maharajah of Jodhpur while flying aircraft over this region dispersed seeds of Prosopis Juliflora in the air. Little did he know that this tree will kill all local trees in the vicinity. How Pradip Krishen removed these trees is a story in itself. In its place, the team planted many local trees, a painfully slow process. He showed pictures of Rao Jodha National Park before and after the removal of Prosopis Juliflora. It’s a great job indeed.
Pradip Krishen supports the planting of local tree species. Even in his books, he strongly advocates for choosing local trees over imported fancy or exotic looking trees. He has reasons for it, too. Locals trees are well suited & adapted for the region & environment. The entire ecosystem supports such trees. Imported fancy trees are known to have caused extensive damage in many regions, Eucalyptus tree imported from Australia is one such example. Local trees need very little care except for the initial few months. Among all the trees, he specifically writes about Dhau or Anogeissus Pendula tree which is a local tree and can be easily found in the Ridge area of Delhi. Even though I don’t live in Delhi but many of the trees listed in his books can be found in Jaipur. Not just the decorative trees but also indigenous trees and shrubs like Peepul and Khejri Trees.
Read related post: World Forestry Arboretum Jaipur
A question was thrown by one of the listeners – why the forest department chooses to plant more of decorative trees like Gulmohar and not Neem which is more suitable to this region. To this, Arijit Bannerjee replied that the department usually chooses an easier way out!
Pradip Krishen is working on Swarnjayanti park in Kishanbagh, Jaipur which involves redeveloping the entire landscape. He chose this project because it was challenging. Local administration could not do much despite putting in a lot of effort because it is a tough area to work with. Pradip Krishen enjoys working on challenging projects. Kishan Bagh is definitely a tough area as I have passed through it while trekking in Jaipur.
Even though I enjoyed reading his book Trees of Delhi but attending this conversation was even more interesting. I absolutely had no idea how interesting this talk session of Pradip Krishen turned out to be. I was unaware of his efforts and involvement in Rao Jodha Desert Park, Jodhpur and Kishan bagh in Jaipur. I’m sure Pradip Krishen will come up with something interesting in Kishan Bagh. If you are a tree lover and haven’t read any of his books, you are missing out. Pradip Krishen is the best author and resource on trees in India. I highly recommend nature lovers’ books written by Pradip Krishen – Trees of Delhi and Jungle Trees of Central India.
Review of Trees of Delhi Book
Trees of Delhi is one of its kind of book. Even though attempts have been made to list the trees found in Delhi earlier too but they haven’t been so successful and well-attempted. The book is published by DK and Penguin books. The information is well presented as the book starts with describing a tree, its parts with names, Delhi’s natural ecology, a little bit of its history in context of trees etc. The author describes how the British changed the whole concept of planting trees with the aim of beautifying the landscape. This kind of information is unique and has been attempted for the first time.
One of the chapters provides a guide on how to use this book for identifying trees. The book approaches the subject by listing the leaves in 10 broad categories. The information is extensive yet crisp. It lists the scinetific name along with local names, unique characterstics of the trees with respect to size, shape, leaves, bark, flowers, etc along with pictures and illustrations. It has been printed to act as a field guide. And it is truly so considering that the size has been kept in such a way that one can carry it along. This is how the page from the book looks like.
One of the most interesting part I enjoyed is the section called “Back of the book” which has a variety of information that is hard to come by. For example, one of the topic talks flowers of the Peepul Tree. It discusses in detail where one can find flowers in Peepul trees. Similarly, one of the topic it discusses is the medicinal uses of the Bael tree.
I highly recommend buying this book if you intend to find more about trees around you or explore your nearby garden or forests. It is totally worth your money.
Read related post: World Forestry Arboretum Jaipur
Check out other stories in the Trees of Jaipur.