A friend of the Indian tribes

Environmental journalist and author of the book \'Black Panther\' Aravind Krish Bala talks about his experiences.

Published: 22nd March 2012 12:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 06:40 PM   |  A+A-

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This 40-year-old has travelled to every nook and corner of the Nilgiris — sometimes driven by a journalist’s thirst for stories or just because of his pure love for the wild — and has befriended every tribe that lives in the regions. This is how Aravind Krish Bala has never run out of an interesting story to tell. Aravind, the author of a children’s book, Black Panther, and many short stories writes on the different aspects of conservation of wildlife and the environment for a Chennai based English daily.

It was Aravind’s passion for nature that took him from the urban setup of Chennai to the heart of the Western Ghats.

With his early schooling in Theni and graduation in Chemistry and later Political Science, both from Madurai, he knew that he would be able to manage a journalist’s job. He worked as chief reporter for The New Indian Express, Coimbatore for a decade, where he published a series of articles about pollution in and around the Coimbatore district and the health hazards that it could cause people.

The stories were foolproof, thanks to Aravind’s contacts with the pollution control officers in the locality, and had the impact that he had expected — attention from the government, which directed authorities to look into the issues. His contributions as a journalist are interesting, but how he plunged into advocating for the environment is another story altogether.

Aravind says, “I always wanted to visit the shola grasslands in Nilgiris, after hearing about it during my undergraduation years. I was at a wildlife photography exhibition when I heard a group of enthusiasts discuss a trip to that particular region. I jumped at the opportunity when I realised they were leaving on the very same day.” He recalls that experience as the one that propelled his desire to become the voice of the helpless tribes living in the shola grassland region.

This environmental journalist was one of the few in the newspaper that he worked for, who was given so many opportunities to travel — grasslands, forests, tribal villages and heritage zones. Wherever Aravind went, he made friends with native tribes, choosing to stay with them rather than being confined by the luxuries of forest guest houses. Their nights would comprise storytelling sessions and local delicacies.

After one such trip, when Aravind had just made it back home, his six-year-old daughter pounced on him for a storywriting session. Two or three hours later she had written three short stories and sketched illustrations, while he had just written one — Black Panther — a true story narrated by a tribal, Murugan, during one of Aravind’s trips.

Aravind sent all his daughter’s stories along with his to Tulika Publications, which was willing to publish his work. The book was published in mid-2011 and costs `150 per copy.  

Aravind’s inspiration to write short stories for children comes from his early experience in the field of children’s education and his daughter who keeps his creativity flowing.

Black Panther is a short story about the experiences of a father and a son when they encounter a panther face to face. It is a well illustrated story (Courtesy: Ashok Rajagopalan) that portrays the much feared beast as a curious and timid animal.

The interesting thing about Aravind is that he does not write to be published, he writes because he cannot let a good story go untold. He has his own collection of short stories and poems.

A novel about his college days in Madurai is in the pipeline but he does not plan to publish it.

When asked about his future work, Aravind says, “I am a man who writes to write and not to publish. I have drafted a children’s story about the capturing and training of an elephant. I am sure it will interest children. I want to get back to environmental writing. I have not made any other plans.”

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