Soaring high on the tale of Kerala’s birdman

Structured into three captivating parts, the book delves into Suresh's enthralling journeys alongside Induchoodan, providing a vivid account of their shared adventures. It then delves into the profound life and philosophy of Induchoodan, who professes that Nature is his religion.
'Pakshikalum Oru Manushyanum' - A Biography of Induchoodan by Suresh Elamon
'Pakshikalum Oru Manushyanum' - A Biography of Induchoodan by Suresh Elamon

# Ajayan

In the realm of prose, a book that resonates with the lyrical beauty of poetry is Induchoodan's (Prof KK Neelakanthan) 'Keralathilae Pakshikal' in Malayalam, a testament to the exquisite artistry of language and storytelling. Renowned wildlife photographer and director Suresh Elamon's recently released book, 'Pakshikalum Oru Manushyanum', is a masterfully crafted biography that illuminates the life and work of this remarkable "birdman" of Kerala. Through eloquent essays, Suresh paints a vivid portrait of Induchoodan, offering readers a deep and insightful glimpse into his world. He is undeniably the perfect author for this biography, given his profound connection with the "birdman" and years spent traveling by his side in pursuit of avian wonders.

Structured into three captivating parts, the book delves into Suresh's enthralling journeys alongside Induchoodan, providing a vivid account of their shared adventures. It then delves into the profound life and philosophy of Induchoodan, who professes that Nature is his religion. Finally, the book sheds light on the multifaceted persona of the "birdman" as a writer, teacher and artist who with his sharp lines using Indian Ink captured the beauty of birds, as the renowned director G Aravindan had noted.

Suresh, once a student of the Induchoodan who was a professor of English at University College in Thiruvananthapuram, recounts a serendipitous encounter with the book 'Keralathilae Pakshikal' in a beautifully narrated tale. It all began when Suresh and his friend Vinayan stumbled upon a woodpecker's nest on an arecanut tree hardly 2 ft from the ground, an uncommon sight due to the bird's nesting habits. Intrigued, Suresh queried Vinayan about this observation. Vinayan then brought the book authored by their professor.

Upon discovering the author's identity, Suresh was stunned. It took several years for him to reveal his own interest in bird-watching to his professor. When he finally did, his teacher was surprised and immediately initiated their joint adventures. From then on, they travelled together, with Induchoodan even riding pillion on Suresh's scooter. Interesting anecdotes connected with their travels are aplenty in this section.

Sketch by Induchoodan
Sketch by Induchoodan

The transition of a professor of English into the realm of ornithology remains a compelling mystery, one that is unraveled in the second part of the book. Here, Induchoodan shares a poignant tale of his formative years, highlighting his bond with a young cattle herder named Kunjan. As a schoolboy, Induchoodan forged a deep connection with Kunjan, who would show him bird nests and kindle in him a passion for observing birds. This early influence set Induchoodan on a path towards becoming a respected authority on avian life. His expertise was such that he was sought after by none other than the legendary Salim Ali, who invited him to contribute to the journals of the prestigious Bombay Natural History Society.

Starting his career as a teacher in Andhra Pradesh, Induchoodan's journey into the world of ornithology began with a visit to the pelican den in Aaredu. This experience led to an assignment to write for the prestigious BNHS. Upon his return to Kerala, he continued his work in several colleges, culminating in the publication of his masterpiece, 'Keralathilae Pakshikal'.

Induchoodan's unique character is aptly captured by one of Malayalam's greatest critics, M N Vijayan. He describes Induchoodan as a principal of the "bird species" during their time at Brennen College. “To Malayalis, Neelakantan was Induchoodan, a man who searched for birds in Shakespeare's tuft, observed seagulls to the point of forgetting the sea, and saw only birds in every poem he read.”

The book has some of his notes, talks and selections from his writings, giving us the birdman’s incisive observational skill, unfailing commitment to his dear subject and remarkable scientific acumen, as writer C Radhakrishnan notes. One intriguing note from Induchoodan discusses crows, likening them to communists (despite lacking a red hue). He observes that when a crow finds food, its first instinct is to call other crows to share in the feast.

Sketch by Induchoodan
Sketch by Induchoodan

Induchoodan in one of his prophetic talks in 1978 says: “The writing on the wall is big and in bold black letters. It says Mankind is on the edge of a precipice. But, alas, those who manage the affairs of mankind are illiterate or at least shortsighted. They can’t read the writing on the wall. I had hoped that, without any weeping or wailing, I could show you the writing on the wall; the unmistakable signs of man’s suicidal pursuit of material progress.”

In connection with the book release, a website www.induchoodan.in/ was also launched. The site has a plethora of information giving more insight into Induchoodan. Besides, it has some rare  bird literature the birdman penned during the early 50s which have come to light only now.

The biography with a preface by poet Balachandran Chullikad and accounts by a number of writers and scientists and bureaucrats is a treasure trove of insights into the life of the great "birdman", revealing the depth of Suresh Elamon's research and his commitment to presenting a captivating account of the revered Induchoodan.

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