Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

The Western Ghats


Sidetracked from my other projects by a commission to illustrate, design and edit a book on nature in India for an NGO, I spent a significant amount of time learning about issues that I normally wouldn’t have paid much attention to. The book, a 12″ x 12″ hardcover, coffee-table book, was finally completed in August 2014 and has had a limited print run.

This was an interesting project, primarily because it made me aware of the precarious situation of wilderness in India – a nation bursting at the seams with people. For anyone who thinks conservation is unimportant, I recommend a trip to the sub-continent. Certainly, I would be the last person to espouse a Malthusian philosophy, but the idea that an overabundance of people leads to moral haziness, social inequality, diminished value for human life, myriad societal problems such as rampant sexual abuse (and intriguingly, heightened value for family), can be witnessed first-hand in India – and other densely populated parts of Asia. But these observations are beyond the scope of this post.

Nevertheless, such a visit can leave one with an heightened appreciation for conservation and ecology. Was it Walt Whitman or Henry David Thoreau who wrote that people need to be “surrounded by green?” Absolutely right.

Many thanks to my co-editor Ian Lockwood for being such a splendid and affable person to collaborate with, and for his magic behind the lens.

IMG_0026   IMG_0020 Divider-9 IMG_0016  IMG_0019 Divider-9 IMG_0021  IMG_0023 Divider-9 IMG_0024

Below appears an important component of the book. This core map took a significant chunk of my time — about 120 hours of work, and used a combination of information from National Geographic, Google Earth and ultra-detailed US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency maps for reference. It covers the central area of the Western Ghats, the 1,000-mile strip of rain-forested mountains which wind down India’s western coast — a biodiversity hotspot (with species found nowhere else on Earth), under siege from a unrestrained, growing population in need of increased living space and raw materials.

Western Ghats Map (Sectional) Divider-7

Java Apple This watercolor of a cluster of Java apples (for the book) took about two hours of work, and was much a learning experience as anything else, considering that I hadn’t worked in the medium since I was eight. This was my second watercolor image for the book. The first image — of a ginger plant, is well, too embarrassing to post online.

Frame-V-Clove Frame-V-Turmeric Frame-V-Basil  Frame-V-Field Mint Frame-H-Wild-Mango Frame-V-Cinnamon Frame-H-Indian Gooseberry Frame-H-Wild Egg Plant Frame-H-Bottle Gourd   Frame-H-Wild Banana Divider-7

Asked for and struck by the conundrum of trying to describe the culture of the people of the Western Ghats within the larger confines of ecology and nature, I thought a three-page foldout graphical representation was perhaps the best way. The graphic was ultimately scrapped because the idea of talking about the local culture of the western Ghats (which has several negative connotations to it), proved a distraction from the central theme of the book. All photographs © Richard Kalina, London.

Foldout(Richard)-A-v1 Foldout(Richard)-B-v1 A note on the process — The upper graphic took about 10 hours of work. The ribbons and area contours were done using Adobe Illustrator. But the rest of the image was completed using Photoshop. All photos and text were laid out in the Indesign document. 

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