What an unexpected book this one turned out to be!
Arefa Tehsin’s Tales from the Wild authored along with her conservationist father Dr Raza H Tehsin, is the kind of book that one might miss because there’s no marketing noise around it. The back of the book blurb also does little justice to what’s inside. But I was glad to have read it for I found in the stories plenty that I liked. The collection of short stories are aimed at the teenager but I think it works for ages 9 or 10 upwards quite nicely.
There are 12 stories, all stemming from Dr Raza’s immense experience as a naturalist. It’s intended as a book that offers ‘edutainment’ but hopefully that ‘tag’ won’t put the reader off. Because Tales from the Wild is an important addition to the meagre collection we have here on environment and conservation. The book starts off on slightly shaky ground, with the first story “The Flying Lamps” tending towards more information and less story. But as I started flipping through the book, I found myself stopping at some of the warmest stories I have read in a long time. The writing become increasingly fluent and eminently readable as you go along.
Dr Raza’s love for nature and animals comes across again and again and there’s a certain gentleness to the narrative that makes the writing stand out. I especially enjoyed how sometimes the protagonist is human and sometimes animal. This lack of distinction between man and animal, I think, underlines the absolute connection the Tehsins’ have with nature.
The stories I especially enjoyed are “The Lost Scavengers”, My Encounter with a Survivor”, “Monarch of Hagdar Valley”, “The Girl and the Serpent” and “The Prince and the Wild Boar."