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Created over nine years, Soul of the Nilgiris: A Journey Through the Mountains is a labour of love and the story of a place told through a personal tapestry of oral narratives, conversations, writings with over 300 photographs.
The book traverses the cultural, ecological, colonial and the now drastically altered landscape of the Blue Mountains situated in the Western Ghat region of southern India, while attempting to draw attention to the lives of its indigenous people and the synergistic way in which they were attuned to the natural world and the dire need to give voice to the relevance of this knowledge in the times we live in.
The book thoughtfully combines prose, photography, design and community involvement: the spines for every one of the 2000 books were hand-embroidered by the Toda women artisans over two years.
Dotted with anecdotes, and short readings, the talk will trace the journey of the book from concept to completion: research, working with the indigenous communities, community involvement, and the creative process.
Ramya Reddy has been a professional photographer for over twelve years, drawn especially to blurring lines between physical and imaginary worlds. Having grown up in a family with interests in the photography business, she took to the artistic possibilities of the camera very early on and went on to pursue her love of the photographic arts with studies at the Parsons School of Design (NY) Light and Life Academy (Ooty) and Santa Fe Workshops (NM). Her fine art work has been exhibited in India and the US.
An aspiring writer, Ramya has recently published a book: Soul of the Nilgiris: A journey through the mountains, a close-to-the-heart project she spent a decade working on.
Rohini Nilekani is Founder-Chairperson, Arghyam, a foundation for sustainable water and sanitation, which funds initiatives all across India. From 2004 to 2014, she was Founder-Chairperson and chief funder of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher which has reached millions of children with indigenous, attractive books in multiple languages.
She sits on the Board of Trustees of ATREE- Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment and serves on the Eminent Persons Advisory Group of the Competition Commission of India. She is also Director on the Board of EkStep, a non-profit education platform.
A former journalist, she has written for many leading publications such as Bombay Magazine, India Today, Sunday and the Times of India. Her first novel, Stillborn, was published by Penguin Books, which also published her book Uncommon Ground, based on a TV Show she conceptualized. Under the pseudonym ‘Noni’, she has also authored several books for young children.
Rohini Nilekani continues to fund work in areas such as governance and accountability, independent media, education and research and environmental sustainability.