I grew up near a shola forest and spent much of my time hiding away in its ‘secret’ spots with a book, a bag for gathering little souvenirs and my diary. This was a time before mobile phones, portable music players and the Internet, and I rarely had a camera at hand. But I still remember, vividly, the hidden little grove I claimed as mine; the injured bird I found and fed there, until one day I returned and discovered it had flown away; the sense of abundance, of vital, green life teeming all around me. I have taken that deep quiet with me to the most crowded cities I have lived in. Here is our chance to share it with you, as we take you ‘Into the Sholas’.
This is a rich confluence, whether it’s the scientists studying the nuanced birdsong of the Sholakili in our lead story, the determined volunteers who clean the sholas, a keen chronicler of the Palani Hills who immortalises the landscape in photographs, or a former resident who travels in time in these forests. These connections may determine the future in many ways, leading us to ask, in these pages: What do we stand to lose if the sholas are not conserved in time?
We also have reportage on forest fires in the region and how farmers and residents in the Palani Hills and other mountains live with it. And the definitive Indian avocado growing guide! Plus, Vivek Menezes on connections between the legacy of war in the mountains of Mussoorie and the war that continues to rage in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, in Kodaikanal: we hear that the controversial wall that was being built in front of Pillar Rocks is coming down. And, developments around the lake—the subject of an in-depth story in our last issue—have gained the attention of residents and environmentalists, who are striving to understand what the administration is planning. The lake is the heart of this town, in many ways, whether you are a tourist, resident, or shopkeeper. What does a better Kodai for all look like, and how will it come about? We are publishing a selection of responses online and will be following these developments.
Lastly, this August, we lost one of Kodai’s stalwarts: writer, environmentalist and TKC contributor Clarence Maloney. Leaving us the legacy of the town’s Center for Environment and Humanity, he worked for 35 years in development across Asia and, at a more local level, was a vital part of community-oriented environmental activism. In a letter to TKC, Mr Maloney urged us all to focus on ‘the REAL issue for Kodai, TN and India—the climate crisis, which is already affecting Kodai and will do so much more intensely’. Here’s to this conservationist and the beacons like him who light the way.
And to you, the readers who accompany us and help take these stories out into the world.
Editor-in-chief, The Kodai Chronicle