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Reviews

The world of six-legged creatures

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Author(s): Sanjay Sondhi
Feb 15, 2011 | From the print edition

Book>> Satpada, our world of insects • by Rebecca Thomas and Geetha Iyer • Rishi Valley Education Centre • Price Not Stated

Satpada, our world of insectsAn admission upfront: I am not a scientist, nor an entomologist. So what am I doing reviewing a book on insects? The authors Rebecca Thomas and Geetha Iyer have taught biology at Rishi Valley School, and this book is an output of their passion for nature.

Just like the authors, I am an amateur naturalist, whose interest in nature began as a young child more than two decades ago and blossomed through observations in the field. As a young boy interested in creepy-crawlies, I would have given an arm and a leg to lay my hands on an easy-to-use guide about the insects in my area.

None existed and I was left to my own devices. Two decades on, unfortunately, the situation has not changed. Books on nature for the inquisitive student or the amateur naturalist just do not exist in India. And if they do exist, they might not be relevant to the area you live in. It is essential for the books to cover local areas so that people can observe insects in the field and then come back to consult the books for more information.

When I got hold of a copy of Satpada, Our World of Insects, it was an Aha moment. The book is written with the minimum fuss and does not have too many scientific names and technical jargon. The word Satpada, meaning six-legged in Sanskrit; all insects have three pairs of legs—has a nice ring to it.

Black and white colour palates and sketches adorn it and break the monotony of plain text. There is just enough information to pique the curiosity of even a casual reader. The section on insects in our culture is fascinating. Stories such as the firefly stealing the dragonfly’s lantern, and hence having the ability to glow at night, have us riveted.

Though the sections on taxonomy and insect descriptions do have some scientific terms, these are kept to a minimum. The description of select insects is especially useful for those who spot a bug and want to find out a little more about it. For those who want to go beyond flipping through the book, and into the field, there are loads of interesting tips on how to observe insects in the field. There is scope for improvement.

The quality of some of the pictures could be better, a few punctuations and spelling errors have crept in as well, and should be weeded out if a next edition happens. I hope it does.

Sanjay Sondhi is a n aturalist in Dehradun

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