Interconnected Lives of Humans and Sharks
Ayesha Anna Ninan
IRIDESCENT SKIN: A MULTISPECIES JOURNEY OF WHITE SHARKS & CAGED HUMANS by Raj Sekhar Aich Niyogi Books, 2021, 491 pp., ₹ 4500.00
February 2023, volume 47, No 2

Sharks have maintained an enduring allure in culture. Powerful, magnificent and terrifying—they capture the imagination of audiences, artists, and researchers alike. Yet, this fascination combined with our fear of the unknown has an ongoing impact. A large number of shark species are threatened with extinction.

Raj Sekhar Aich is a marine anthropologist and social scientist who studied shark cage-diving by living in New Zealand where the great white shark is classified as ‘vulnerable’. At the heart of his research is an attempt to overcome his own fear of sharks, developed before he ever set sight on one. He faces his fears head on by studying the relationship between humans and these spectacular creatures.

Bluff, New Zealand is a tiny seaport that, at one time, boasted of two companies offering cage-diving excursions. This came down to one amidst the government see-sawing on the rights and regulations of this activity.

Aich moves to a rickety old house, wakes up long before dawn to strap on all his equipment, and heads down to the harbour where he has become a crew member on the cage-diving boat. He assists with tasks like securing all items on the boat as it pushes out to sea, and then helps get everything ready for the tourists’ diving experience. He interviews them and receives follow up thoughts and details later.

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