This autobiography of the celebrated ornithologist, the late Salim Ali, describes his life and the changing world in which he lived, with characteristic wit and elegance. It is an eminently readable book-for the birdwatcher, the ecologist, and the general reader.
Living three-quarters of a century with no thought of writing one's memoirs and then suddenly deciding to do so is a bad business, I realize. With practically no archival material by way of preserved correspondence, diaries, etc., and only tricky memory to fall back on, the task is unsatisfactory. In the circumstances it took considerable persuasion from friends and 'fans' to evoke in me the courage to write an autobiography. This is, however, a useful way of letting curious people know how and whence I contracted the germs of ornithology at a time when the disease was practically unknown among Indians, and of showing the development of my scientific interest in birds. The writing of this narrative, under duress as it were, began eight years ago without any proper planning or chronological sequence-more or less in the nature of random re-collections and reminiscences jotted down lackadaisically in bits and pieces, as the spirit moved. But for the kindly though merciless nagging of well-meaning friends and relations it would have floundered in the mire of procrastination.
To the many-too numerous to identify individually-who have helped to recall long-forgotten happenings and who have helped in other ways, I am deeply grateful. Most of all, my thanks are due to R.E. Hawkins (Hawk) for agreeing so cheerfully to sort out the jumbled narrative and reduce the chaos to some semblance of order. Among the others to whom I feel specially beholden are J .S. Serrao , possessed of an enviable memory, who has been my indispensable aide and archivist for over three decades; and to the enthusiastic Archna Mehrotra who did all the tedious typing and retyping of drafts, and who by constant prodding and helpful suggestions was largely responsible for bringing to a close a venture that had begun to seem unending. I am aware that under the circumstances many incidents and personalities that should have found a place in the story may have inadvertently been overlooked. But eighty eventful years is a long time to pack into these few printed pages, and all I can do at this stage is to deplore their non-inclusion.
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