“When the Homo sapiens arrived on the banks of the Indus, the mightiest Himalayan river at that time, its far bank would have been scarcely visible, much like the Ganga and the Brahmaputra today at their widest. The waters of the Indus would have been filled with fish, turtles, and crabs. Hippopotami would have lazed in its slow-moving waters, and several varieties of deer and horses, eleven species of elephants and four of rhinoceros would have roamed the land, and waterfowl of immense varieties would have skimmed over the river. The sandy riverbanks would have been lined with tall grasses, and, from between these, ostriches and long-necked antelopes like Sivatherium [extinct giant giraffid] would have watched out for new arrivals.”
Indica: A Deep Natural History of Indian Subcontinent is a comprehensive study by a biochemist turned geologist, about Indian subcontinent, its origins and how the landmasses around it were formed. Pranay Lal through his book submits a microscopic and extensive study conducted over 20 years across the Indian subcontinent. The book lets us pick up clues from locations that are exotic and otherwise, connecting them to complete an enigma. Indica is an account of different stories of passion many have in this area of research.
Placing the facts and figures carefully on an evolutionary timeline, Indica explores our past and connects it to our present in a coherent style. We may associate evolution and its timeline with fossils. But here the major focus shifts to the rocks that lie underneath. We learn that the distinctive rock at the tip of the subcontinent at Kanyakumari, on which a statue of Vivekananda stands, marks a critical point in India’s creation. The book helps us look beyond what we see. With intense illustrations, this prose helps us to look around with a sense of wonder. It also raises apprehensions about the critical regions that are fast vanishing from our sight. Human encroachment and unscientific activities are a cause of worry when we think about places that connect us to our roots.
Indica is a different approach to defining life and pondering upon its fragility.