Shola forest near Mannavanur Lake, Kodaikanal (Photo: Naufal MQ)

Editorial: Letter to the Readers of The Kodai Chronicle, October 2021

Dear Readers,

Two months to go till the end of the year, and things feel quite different in Kodai. Locals, visitors, and temporary locals are traveling in and out with increasing ease; and tourists continue to flood the town every weekend (next week, during the Diwali break), bringing both much-needed revenue to shopkeepers and traffic jams to clog every available artery. E-passes were discontinued—and, along with the tourists, elephants came up the ghats and to town! (More specifically, to Pillar Rocks—more on that, soon.)  

Strange times persist. If, like many, you can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s time to head for the woods. 

Anyone who has spent time in Kodai or is interested in green matters is aware of the importance of sholas. Tropical montane forests found in the higher montane regions of South India (in Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu), sholas are wonderful and valuable biodiversity banks. They are the future, the past—and an important place to treasure, in the present.

You may have read pieces like V Sundararaju’s valuable reminder of the necessity of sholas, in the context of the Nilgiris. Researchers study the biodiversity in Kodai’s sholas, but laypeople haven’t been presented with the full picture, yet. Now, in our third issue, we continue to celebrate all things Kodai as we focus on the sholas of Kodai and nearby areas – as well as conservationists working in this field. You will notice ‘The Conservationists’ as branding for several of our profiles of major environmentalists, as we establish a dedicated sub-section for these pioneering, often ground-breaking individuals.

Our Shola stories begin with well-known local environmentalist Pippa Mukherjee’s fascinating exploration of how the eucalyptus and shola coexist in Kodai. They extend as far as Wayanad, Kerala, in another reach of the Western Ghats, through an interview with renowned  restoration ecologist Suprabha Seshan, winner of the UK’s Whitley Award and wordsmith extraordinaire. We went macro, in part two of an extended interview with WWF Chief Conservation Officer Nik Sekhran, dealing with global issues he makes both accessible and urgent; featured alongside an important conversation with Kodai’s new Chief Conservator of Forests, S Ramasubramanian. Ian Lockwood’s gorgeous photographs illuminate a memorable trip to ‘Secret Shola’, which Pavi Sagar explores in a look at the rural legends around this site: the dense, mysterious Madhikettan Shola.

We celebrate the Tibetan brothers who put thukpa on the Kodai food map; an interview with veteran journo Subramanian on her book detailing a famous real-life crime set partly in Kodai; a brief history of the settlers of the Palani Hills, a profile of local impressionist artist Adam Khan; an illustrator of all things auto; and feature much more about this unique town. 

In a new feature, Window Seat, looking from Kodai out into the world, former resident Anjuli Kaul reflects on the art of sauntering. And, Pity Paati Ms Perumalmalai, increasingly popular, is back with more advice.

In between issues, we will be slow releasing more stories for our readers, in our Sunday Reads: first, a piece by the legendary Bob and Tanya, whose legacy we celebrate with a case for a memorial plaque for them, lovingly authored by writer and environmentalist Zai Whitaker. An Open Letter (another new feature) calling for change and additional voices on local concerns.  

Note: we printed and distributed a print edition over September and October! There’s something about being able to hold TKC in your hands, I know, even for our millenial readers. For a lot of folks, this means we finally exist—for others, there’s finally something they can flip through in one place, at one time. Hopefully we will have another one for you soon, funds and sales permitting.

Meanwhile: read, write in, and tell us what you think!

Rajni

Rajni George

Rajni George is founding editor and acting editor-in-chief of The Kodai Chronicle. She has worked at Penguin Random House, Granta and The Caravan. Her work has been published in The New Internationalist, The New York Times, and Mint Lounge. She works remotely in climate change adaptation, and lives between Bangkok and St Mary's Road.

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