Island for sale

by Meethil on June 21, 2012

 Priam Island

The word ‘devel­op­ment’ needs to be rede­fined. Or should I say, it needs to be defined in the first place. In the last two decades, ‘devel­op­ment’ has been defined as: Find (buy, encroach, or reclaim) land and make con­crete build­ings on it. And with every­one think­ing in terms of brick and moolah, this def­i­n­i­tion is not likely to change in the near future.

One of the lat­est exam­ples comes from Mr. Sid­dhra­js­inh Raol whose ances­tors once ruled the Bhav­na­gar region in Gujarat, India. Mr. Raol is the owner of an island 7.2 nau­ti­cal miles off the main land. The island, named Piram, is one of the last vir­gin islands on earth and is a nat­ural his­tory trea­sure trough – it is strewn with fos­sils (some dat­ing back 8,000 years) of dinosaur eggs, giraffe, and gigan­tic tur­tles. Also found are parts of ship­wrecks, some which belong to the 14th cen­tury. This island is now up for sale.

Mr. Raol says he has received at least a hun­dred offers, but most of them will destroy the nat­ural his­tory of the island. He is look­ing for­ward to sell­ing the island to high net-worth indi­vid­u­als (HNIs), NRIs, or celebri­ties who would develop it into a res­i­den­tial township.

Now, I don’t deny the good inten­tions har­boured by Mr. Raol. I believe he under­stands the impor­tance of the nat­ural his­tory relics on his island. Any edu­cated busi­ness­man run­ning a greenhouse-making busi­ness under­stands what fos­sils are. I guess that is why he is propos­ing to make a nat­ural his­tory museum on the island. But what baf­fles me is the con­ven­tion cen­tre, clubs of inter­na­tional stan­dard, edu­ca­tional insti­tutes, and IT parks that are being planned apart from the res­i­den­tial areas.

Here, let me remind Mr. Raol that devel­op­ing a town­ship on the island and pre­serv­ing its nat­ural his­tory are two oppo­site ideas that can­not co-exist. Want­ing to do both of these is quite like want­ing a dream to con­tinue after you have woken up. It is absolutely impossible.

I find it hard to believe that HNIs, NRIs, and celebri­ties who con­sider lux­ury either a birthright or a hard earned priv­i­lege, which they can no longer live with­out, and who do not have an iota of respect for the ecol­ogy of the place, are being con­sid­ered as prospec­tive buy­ers. The thousands-of-years-old trea­sure will only be rocked and rolled on by earth-moving machines.

Mr. Raol is the only pri­vate owner on the island and owns 90 acres of the 186 acre island. A light­house and some adjoin­ing area is owned by the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Light­house and Light­ships and the rest is ‘manda­tory gov­ern­ment wasteland’.

But the stink of greed really becomes unbear­able when you hear that he has approached the gov­ern­ment with an offer to develop the area that is demar­cated ‘manda­tory gov­ern­ment waste­land’.
Now it becomes clear that Mr. Raol cares lit­tle about the ecol­ogy of the place and more about max­imis­ing his profits.

It is sad that this devel­op­men­tal project will go through like so many before it have. Some Mr. Hot­shot will buy the island and make a posh retreat there for his waders and other migra­tory birds.

But it’s OK. What do we care. We hardly have space in our home for all those fos­sils, let alone our hearts which are much smaller. And Mr. Raol did say he would be mak­ing a nat­ural his­tory museum.

There is no place on this planet man has stepped on to and left the nat­ural his­tory unaffected.

If you would like to buy this island and gift it to me please visit this sad web­site ( ) they have cre­ated to mar­ket the island.

And my jaw dropped open when I read this (located at ):

NRI Town-Ship cum Exclu­sive Resort”

The first planned island city in Indian his­tory for NRIs only

Total area — 40, 00,000 square yards

Per­ma­nent Green and Open Area — 95%

NRI Invest­ment Trust Bank’

Super exclu­sive ‘Export-House”

Information-Technology Park

Busi­ness Houses for Inter­na­tional Companies

Inter­na­tional Call Centre

2 arti­fi­cial lagoons and 2 lakes

Hydro polis under­sea hotel

Oceano-Aquarium in one of the lagoon

Exclu­sive Shop­ping Cen­tre of inter­na­tional standard

Exclu­sive Ban­quet Hall

Almost 1,000 Pent-houses in two ‘7 Star Cruise Liners”

A Super Spe­cialty 90 — bed Cos­metic Hospital

ICSE School & Crèche for NRls only

Stud farm and Racecourse

Casino for NRls and for­eign­ers only

Day-Night PGA approved 18-hole cham­pi­onship Golf Course.

Fool­proof multi-level secu­rity with both manned (C.I.S.F.) and elec­tronic secu­rity systems

Water trans­port facil­i­ties like hov­er­crafts, yatch, cata-marines speed­boats, water scoot­ers etc.

World-class infra­struc­ture com­pris­ing busi­ness facil­i­ties, seam­less con­nec­tiv­ity, air and water trans­port facilities

Day & night air trans­port facil­i­ties with Instru­ment land­ing Sys­tem in ‘0’ vis­i­bil­ity (CA T– IIIC operations)

Cer­ti­fied to ISO-14001 stan­dards for envi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment sys­tems SA-8001 for social account­abil­ity & OHSAS-18001 foroc­cu­pa­tional health & safety man­age­ment systems.

Nature Parks, Rare birds, Teem­ing flow­ers and Var­ie­gated Plant Specie, more than 50 avenues of recre­ation like adven­ture sports, water sports pre­mium clubs, dis­cotheque, open air the­atre, lagoons, oceano-aquarium snow theme parks, wave pools, plan­e­tar­ium, cabanas, botan­i­cal gar­den, bon­sai park, rock gar­den, minia­ture park, pubs, pic­nic spots, food court, hor­ror park, children’s park, sculp­ture park and a host of other enter­tain­ment avenues with prob­a­bly one of the best sports acad­emy in the country.

And you will want to bury your­self after you read the draw­backs and solu­tions he has pro­vided at

The Times of India arti­cle which car­ried this news can be read here


Wild Turkey painted by J J Audubon in The Birds of America

The Wild Turkey painted by John James Audubon in his ornitho­log­i­cal mas­ter­piece The Birds of America

 If I had seen Audubon’s Ele­phant on the shelf of a book­store I would have instantly grabbed it (and not put it back). But it wasn’t I who found it in the store, it was my wife. And I am glad she bought it.

Any nat­u­ral­ist worth his binoc­u­lars knows that the French-American ornithol­o­gist, nat­u­ral­ist, and painter, John James Audubon, is best known for his work The Birds of Amer­ica, today referred to as an ornitho­log­i­cal mas­ter­piece. The Birds of Amer­ica com­prises 497 species of birds painted by Audubon and repro­duced by his engravers on 435 plates. But few peo­ple have been inter­ested in know­ing how Audubon accom­plished this.Audubon's Elephant by Duff Hart-Davis

Duff Hart-Davis’s book, Audubon’s Ele­phant, nar­rates Audubon’s strug­gle to com­plete his sem­i­nal work. Audubon was the first artist of the time to paint birds in action, in their nat­ural habi­tat, with leaves and flow­ers in the back­ground. Other artists before him pro­duced very flat, clin­i­cal paint­ings. Audubon painted the birds life-size and insisted they be pro­duced thus in double-elephant for­mat1. The size of the paint­ing made it impos­si­ble for Audubon to find a pub­lisher or engraver in Amer­ica, forc­ing him to seek a pub­lisher in Eng­land. Audubon knew this was going to be a dif­fi­cult and expen­sive task and had no idea how it would take shape, but was deter­mined to see it through.

The book opens on 21 July 1826 when Audubon arrives at Liv­er­pool, car­ry­ing his leather bound, 39.5 by 29.5 inch port­fo­lio weigh­ing 100 lbs, 340 pounds, and many let­ters of intro­duc­tion to promi­nent peo­ple, seek­ing sub­scrip­tions2 for his work which would aid its pub­li­ca­tion. But after just 11 pages, we reach Chap­ter 2: Wan­derer, in which the author takes us back in time and gives us an overview of Audubon’s life – the period between 1785–1826. In the next 30 pages, we are told about his immi­gra­tion to Amer­ica from France, his early life, how he met Lucy, whom he mar­ried, his var­i­ous busi­nesses which failed, the finan­cial hard­ships he went through, his trav­els in Amer­ica dur­ing which he painted por­traits to earn money, him meet­ing with other nat­u­ral­ists and ornithol­o­gists, his deci­sion to stop being a busi­ness man and ded­i­cate all his time being an artist and get­ting his work pub­lished, and his sub­se­quent trav­els to paint all the species of birds in Amer­ica. From the third chap­ter onwards, the author, Duff Hart-Davis, returns to 1826 and con­tin­ues his detailed account of Audubon’s life in Eng­land, the numer­ous peo­ple he met and the friends he made. He also lib­er­ally inter­sperses the text with excerpts from Audubon’s own diaries and let­ters to reveal Audubon’s moods, thoughts, expe­ri­ences, and plans. Duff Hart-Davis also tells us what Audubon’s crit­ics and com­peti­tors (other artists, ornithol­o­gists and nat­u­ral­ists) thought of him and how they added to his strug­gle to get his work recognised.JJ-Audubon-The-Birds-of-America-Open

For the pro­duc­tion of The Birds of Amer­ica, Audubon met a lot of peo­ple, trav­elled a lot within Eng­land and also made trips to Amer­ica to paint new species. Duff Hart-Davis tries to fol­low Audubon through his var­i­ous activ­i­ties, some­times run­ning out of breath chas­ing Audubon’s brush since he painted every wak­ing hour. A lot of details and inci­dents have been crammed into 230 pages mak­ing the flow of the nar­ra­tive jerky.

Audubon’s dis­ap­point­ments in his quest for sub­scrip­tions have been etched out in detail, his search for a skilled engraver who could han­dle his ele­phan­tine project is dealt with sat­is­fac­to­rily, so is his part­ner­ship with MacGillivray who helped in writ­ing the five vol­umes of Ornitho­log­i­cal Biog­ra­phy3. But there is lit­tle infor­ma­tion of how his engraver Havell felt about Audubon, espe­cially since this was the most chal­leng­ing work at the time and Audubon found numer­ous faults in his work at cru­cial peri­ods in the project. Audubon lost quite some sub­scribers because the repro­duc­tions were not up to mark, pack­aged wrongly, or deliv­er­ies were delayed. Nor is there much said about MacGillivray who, though Audubon would not admit it, was invalu­able in writ­ing the vol­umes of Ornitho­log­i­cal Biog­ra­phy. Eng­lish was not one of Audubon’s strengths, he needed MacGillivray as his edi­tor and the fact that he was a ‘trained anatomist and an excel­lent writer free of jeal­ousy and self-importance’ only ben­e­fited Audubon. There­fore, it is impor­tant to know how they felt about the work they were pro­duc­ing, or the man they were work­ing with.

Hav­ing said that, the book gives a good over­all feel of what Audubon was like. It brings to life his strug­gle in get­ting his work accepted by ornithol­o­gists, his art recog­nised for its qual­ity, and finally sub­scrip­tions for his book. The author’s research and objec­tive com­pi­la­tion leaves lit­tle desire to read another biog­ra­phy of Audubon. In con­clu­sion, if you were to read one book about Audubon, I sug­gest it be this one.


On Jan­u­ary 20, 2012, a rare first edi­tion of John James Audubon’s illus­trated ‘The Birds of Amer­ica’ depict­ing more than 400 life-size North Amer­i­can species in four mon­u­men­tal vol­umes was pur­chased at Christie’s auc­tion Fri­day for $7.9 mil­lion by an Amer­i­can Collector.


From Wikipedia

In Decem­ber 2010, The Econ­o­mist mag­a­zine esti­mated that, adjusted for infla­tion, five of the ten high­est prices ever paid for printed books were paid for copies of Birds of America.Of the 119 copies known to sur­vive, only eleven are held in pri­vate collections.In March 2000 the Fox-Bute copy sold at Christie’s (New York) for $8,802,500. In Decem­ber 2005 an unbound copy, the Prov­i­dence Athenaeum Set, sold, again at Christie’s (New York), for $5.6 million.

On 6 Decem­ber 2010, a com­plete copy of the first edi­tion was sold in Lon­don at Sotheby’s for £7,321,250 (approx­i­mately $11.5 mil­lion) dur­ing the sale of Mag­nif­i­cent Books, Man­u­scripts and Draw­ings from the Col­lec­tion of Fred­er­ick, Sec­ond Lord Hes­keth. The win­ning bid was a record auc­tion price for a printed book and was placed by London-based art dealer Michael Tollemache, who out­bid three oth­ers dur­ing the auc­tion. Accord­ing to the prove­nance details reported by the auc­tion house, the copy’s orig­i­nal owner was Henry Witham of Durham, listed as sub­scriber 11 in Audubon’s Ornitho­log­i­cal Biog­ra­phy; the first vol­ume of the set bears a pre­sen­ta­tion inscrip­tion from Witham’s wife, dated 24 June 1831. Lord Hes­keth had bought the copy from a descen­dant of Witham at a Christie’s auc­tion on 3 July 1951, pay­ing £7,000.

  1. Dou­ble Ele­phant Folio: The largest books and prints pro­duced in the 19th cen­tury were in the Dou­ble Ele­phant Folio size. This is the paper used for the Audubon Havell and Bein bird prints, which mea­sure approx­i­mately 26 1/2 x 39 inches. Only a few books have ever been pro­duced on this scale, and thus Dou­ble Ele­phant Folio has become syn­onomous with Audubon’s great work.
  2. Sub­scrip­tions: The author says, ‘It was com­mon prac­tice at that time for artists to seek sub­scribers who would pay for each part of a work as it was pub­lished.’
  3. Ornitho­log­i­cal Biog­ra­phy: Descrip­tions of the birds in The Birds of Amer­ica, essays on Audubon’s obser­va­tions, expe­ri­ences, and adven­tures, were com­piled in five vol­umes titled Ornitho­log­i­cal Biog­ra­phy.


A lone tusker

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Makhna and I

Makhna and I

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A huge Makhna emerges from the ele­phant grass on to the road. My dri­ver, Nadeem, imme­di­ately stops the vehi­cle and turns off the engine. Before Zakhir Hus­sain, the guide, can raise his hand to warn me to be still, I have frozen. I was in the process of unwrap­ping my cam­era from its dust jacket, […]

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Carbon Map & Cap Conference

A frame of our natural heritage

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Chief Guest Ms. Valsa Nair Singh, Envi­ron­ment sec­re­tary, Maha­rash­tra State holds up one of my ready-to-frame prints On 9th April 2011, Cen­tre for Envi­ron­men­tal Research & Edu­ca­tion organ­ised The Car­bon Map & Cap™ Con­fer­ence at Vivanta by Taj Pres­i­dent, Mum­bai. The Car­bon Map & Cap™ Con­fer­ence 2011 was organ­ised by the Cen­tre for Envi­ron­men­tal Research […]

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