The Udaipur born author Arefa Tehsin has been shortlisted for the prestigious The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Best Author Award 2017 for her book Wild in the Backyard published by Penguin. The Hindu Young World – Goodbooks Awards, the first Indian awards to promote excellence in Indian children’s books, recognises Indian works in English and English translation. Goodbooks, a website forIndian children’s books, is supported by Wipro Applying Thought in Schools, Wipro’s social initiative in education.
Wild in the Backyard has its roots in Arefa’s childhood. The ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden of Udaipur, Arefa and her family have a long-standing relationship with the wild. Her grandfather T. H. Tehsin, the ex-Mayor of Udaipur, was one of the earliest big game hunters turned conservationist of India and her father Dr. Raza H. Tehsin has been the initiator of wildlife conservation movement in Southern Rajasthan.
Arefa grew up with jungles and wildlife around her in a family of jungle lovers. But as she grew, she realised that most children had a disconnect with nature as they didn’t have an avenue to come close to wildlife. She says, “We may think that wilderness and wildlife are confined to the forests. But there is a whole lot of wild in our own backyards, gardens, homes and cities. There are hunters and the hunted, diggers and tunnellers, raptors and roaches, the eight legged and the legless… A lost world all around us. Let’s say hi to them and take a look at their home, which, by the way, is also ours.”
She further adds, “I grew up in Udaipur’s Panchwati colony in a house with a lot of trees, birds and wildlife. Nowadays, as soon as people buy a plot of land, they want to concretise it. They do not realise that they kill millions of insects, reptiles, birds and mammals in the process. I urge people to leave green patches in their homes for the wildlife in our cities to survive.”
In the month of September, her book The Elephant Bird was selected for the International Literacy Day campaign by Pratham Books and read at 3200 plus locations in India in 25 languages from slums to the Pranab Mukherjee’s Presidential Library. Her other book The Land of the Setting Sun and Other Nature Tales has been taken up by the renowned Ecole Mondiale World School as their English textbook for Grade 6. Her published books include Tales from the Wild, Iora and the Quest of Five and Do Tigers Drink Blood and 13 Other Mysteries of Nature. She writes columns and articles for various national dailies and magazines like The Hindu, Outlook Money, Deccan Herald etc.
The other authors who have been shortlisted for three other books are Shalini Srinivasan for Gangamma’s Gharial (Penguin), Ritu Khoda and Vanita Pai for Eye Spy Indian Art (Takshila Publication) and Andaleeb Wajid for When She Went Away (Duckbill). The winners will be announced at The Hindu Lit for Life Festival at Chennai in January 2017.