Top positive review
One of its kind
23 June 2017
This book is unique considering the 'popular science' genre is completely missing in India. Though India may have many accomplished scientists, geologists, paleontologists, archaeologists, their research and knowledge largely remains constrained to academic journals and rarely reaches the lay reader. Other than Jayant Narlikar, I am unable to name any other Indian who has popularized science. The best selling popular science books in India are global best sellers written by Western Writers, Professors who may not have an incentive to write on India specific themes. Young Indians are caught in a chicken-egg problem - since there are no good popular science books on India, they don't develop much interest which further reduces incentive to write such a book. There used to be journals like 'Science Today' when I was growing up in the 80s, but unfortunately they shut shop for falling readership. I cannot think of any Science related publication that young Indians read today, which is hugely concerning as future of a country in 21st century lies in STEM.
Indica by Pranay Lal is, however, a shining star. Solid ray of hope towards the future of Science in India. Pranay seems to be extremely curious, passionate discoverer and a thorough researcher (50 odd pages in 'Notes' section attest to the amount of research he has done), who has been exploring this topic for 22 years and committed last 4 years to writing this book. And what a masterpiece it has turned out to be! I would compare it with the works of people like Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, Jared Diamond, Carl Zimmer.
Besides research, Pranay seems to have traveled all over India to explore sites of importance from a geology or paleontology perspective. Places he mentioned are all over India, Pakistan, as well as around the world. For someone like me who has no prior interest in studying rocks or fossils, this book has changed the way I would see mountains, rivers, and landscapes of India, which is a priceless gift to the reader.
His writing is smooth and often witty. Loved tidbits like where he reminded the reader of a rock in Karnataka being the one where character called Sambha sat in a Bollywood mega-hit movie of 70s called 'Sholay' that every Indian can relate to. There are several such instances. I cannot think of any page that was not gripping.
I plan to read/refer to this book again and this would make a prized possession for a long time.
Highly recommend, even if you never thought highly of fossils or dinosaurs or rocks or atmosphere. You will be surprised.
One minor quibble I have is to do with the generous usage of exclamation marks, which could have been avoided. I would have expected the editor to catch it, because the words and sentences by themselves are exciting enough.