In his memoirs, In the Afternoon of Time, the veteran Hindi writer, Harivansh Rai Bacchan expressed a strong preference for the way the Hindi language ought to evolve in the public sphere. Hindi words, he wrote, should constitute the main body of a text, but they should be laced with Urdu and Persian. This would add to the beauty of the prose but not detract from its own distinctive attractions. Coming as it does nearly a quarter cen-tury after Ramachandra Guha’s forays into the history of environment-related conflicts in India, the book under review does not disappoint. There is a pulling together of the key strands of writing over the last two decades, but in the process there is a sense of rediscovery. Nowhere, except in the conclusion does he pull his punches, but the narrative is laced—to use Bacchan’s phraseology—with anecdote and wit. There are connections that are obvious to all and there are otherlinkages that come from a rare gift of synthesis.
The book begins with a careful retelling of the paths that took Guha, a young graduate student with two degrees in Economics, to the forests of Uttarakhand, a foray which eventually resulted in his The Unquiet Woods (1989), a foundational text in environmental history and sociology in South Asia. He singles out the individual and groups that set him on this intellectual journey. Alam Singh Rawat, headman of Mandal in Chamoli district appraised him of the local context of the Chipko movement.