Sanaah Mehra
WILD TREASURES & ADVENTURES: A FORESTER’S DIARY by By Sunayan Sharma Niyogi Books, 2023, 208 pp., INR 385.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Reading Wild Treasures & Adventures: A Forester’s Diary feels like stepping into the cosy home of one of your parent’s friends, who has the most captivating profession. They serve you dinner and start to weave tales from their extraordinary work life. Throughout the night, you find yourself perched at the edge of your seat, eyes wide with wonder, transported to their enchanting world. Sunayan Sharma invites us to peek into his remarkable career as a Forest Officer. He unveils seventeen engrossing anecdotes that manage to ignite a spark of fascination in the readers about forests, their vibrant wildlife, the tapestry of biodiversity, and the arcane people who inhabit these wild domains.
‘It is dangerous to go near a tiger on its kill but we, unaware of its presence, did so.’ Such captivating captions accompanied by illustrations and images at the beginning of each chapter, leave you wanting to know more. You’ll find yourself consumed by questions: Can Lala outwit the cannibalistic Kathodiyas and survive? Is Ajabgarh truly haunted by evil spirits? Will the cunning shikari who slit his throat manage to elude arrest?
Sharma doesn’t have to be an exceptional writer for us to grasp the enduring and almost infectious reverence he has for the forests and their wilderness. Without explicitly stating it, the author conveys the allure of these natural sanctuaries through his own experiences. He narrates even the most mundane facts with such fascination that it ignites in the reader an urge to immerse oneself in the heart of these landscapes and listen to the call of the sambar while examining the pug marks on the trees.
Sharma, in a rather elementary and non-biased way, explains the problems faced by the forest officers because of cattle owners, Adivasis, politicians and shikaris. Upon reading the book, one not only develops a deep interest in the wilderness but also acquires knowledge about the intricate challenges that the officers and natives of these forests face. When we, as readers, one day get to experience these majestic forests, we will know better than to approach a lone elephant and will make sure to uncover the history behind the temples within the forests. Sharma covers a wide array of themes enabling readers to truly comprehend the hardships and thrill of the forest life.
The author is candid about his failures, disappointments, and prejudice. He reveals that through his interactions with the Adivasis, he eventually let go of his prejudice against them and learned to unlearn. The author’s perspective on sati, however, left me with some reservations. Despite his attempts to provide extensive explanations, it seemed as though he may not be entirely critical of the practice; in fact, he appears to view it as an act of honour.
The stories about raids to stop the timber thieves, the elephant hostage situation, the translocation of tigers and the author’s endearing late-night walk to reach the Kalighati checkpost keep you hooked and wanting to know more. Sunayan Sharma attempts to keep these events fast paced and exciting. The writing style, however, at specific points does not flow as easily and the unnecessary repetition of words makes the most adventurous and exciting stories less gripping.
Wild Treasures & Adventures: A Forester’s Diary offers us the rare opportunity to vicariously experience the adventurous side of a forester’s life from the comfort of our homes while also fostering a deep respect for those who undertake the crucial duty of safeguarding our natural reserves.