One with Nature: In Conversation with Rohan Chakravarty

With quirky illustrations that seem to pop right out of your screen, author-illustrator Rohan Chakravarty walked us through his new book, Naturalist Ruddy: Adventurer. Sleuth. Mongoose. What really set apart this session of the NLF Reading Challenge was the purely interactive approach with which Rohan gripped everyone’s attention.  

Naturalist Ruddy is about your average mongoose turned amateur sleuth who goes about uncovering the mysteries of the flora & fauna across various wildlife sanctuaries, forests and national parks across India. Soon after discussing his book, Rohan engaged the audience in a fun task: 

“I’m going to ask you a few questions about the crime scene that we observed and we are going to find out who the murderer is, all right? I hope all of you are ready!”

With that began a back-and forth-in which different viewers interacted with Rohan via the chat option provided to them. Rohan described the setting, which was inspired by the Himalayas. There were three sets of footprints, and blood (indicating murder) as could be easily seen in the illustration he presented. The goal was simple: don the detective’s hat and find out the animal who was behind the murder. 

Rohan quoted Sherlock Holmes—Guessing is a shocking habit destructive to the logical faculty— to guide the audience on how to be good detectives and to motivate them to channel their efforts in the right direction.

 

After a collaborative effort where the viewers alongside Rohan, scanned the scene for clues and analyzed each, the Eurasian Lynx (a wild cat) turned out to be the best fit given its large size and missing claw prints (cats can retract them). 
 

“So, that’s how Naturalist Ruddy (the protagonist mongoose), Rohan said, goes about solving these crime scenes. In the process, we tend to learn a lot more about nature – that’s what this book is all about – it’s got 39 engaging cases that I’m sure you will enjoy. Team up with Ruddy and figure out the answers by yourself.” 

Rohan also discussed the process that led up to the creation of the book. 

“Research papers were a part of it”, he said. There were actual observations as well. There’s a case in my book where strange duck-like sounds can be heard from a cliff. I was exploring the Vazhachal falls in Kerala, when I heard little quacks coming from the crevices but had no idea what the source was. I somehow managed to climb, and what I noticed were tiny tadpoles. Then, I came across a frog that was guarding a cluster of eggs and making a sound. Later, I consulted a lot of herpetologists and came to know that it was a leaping frog. These frogs live on cliffs and the tadpoles feed on the moss that grows on these cliffs.”

“This was a journey of self-exploration and discovery for me as well. This entire episode presented itself in the form of a very engaging mystery, a thriller that I too wanted to convey through these stories.”

On being asked how he became a cartoonist, Rohan responded: 

“The last few years have been very tumultuous in terms of environmental politics. A lot has been happening and I’ve been consistently drawing about it; I like drawing wildlife and I really wanted to get more to the ecology side of it. When I started making these observations in my garden during the lockdown, it prompted the idea that I should do something with all these exciting discoveries.”

As the session drew to a close, he acknowledged the impact a book like Naturalist Ruddy would have had on him during his childhood, something that he hopes for his readers as well: 

“I think I would have been infected with the same sense of curiosity that Ruddy has; he takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of every observation that he’s making… I don’t call myself a writer or an author. I am content with being a cartoonist. I’ve been inspired by the works of Bill Watterson (who created the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes), and Gary Larson (the creator of The Far Side).”

About the Author

Rohan Chakravarty is a wildlife enthusiast, cartoonist, artist, and creator of Green Humour, a series of comic strips on wildlife and nature conservation. The illustrations from Green Humour have been used for a variety of initiatives and campaigns promoting animal awareness and conservation. Rohan is also the author of The Great Indian Nature Trail with Uncle Bikky (WWF India) and Bird Business (BNHS), and his work has been recognized by UNDP, Sanctuary Asia, WWF International, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Publishing Next.

About the Book

Naturalist Ruddy: Adventurer. Sleuth. Mongoose is set in the jungles of central India, where teak meets sal and plateaus meet hills, where natural history meets detective fiction in the adventures of an inquisitive Ruddy Mongoose. With this one-of-a-kind, edge-of-your-seat comic book, get to the bottom of nature’s “crime scenes”!

About the NLF Reading Challenge

The NLF Reading Challenge is a four-month-long reading event from March to June 2022, involving students between 10 to 13 years of age. It runs for participants across India on the competitive and non-competitive tracks. In addition to fun book-based activities and regular author interactions, the challenge will conclude with a quiz competition that will see the three best teams win gold, silver, and bronze engraved trophies respectively, certificates of achievement, and a great set of books! 

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