This book, over eight years in the making, is a dramatic photo exploration of the Indian subcontinent from the air. The breathtaking visuals - many of them taken from over 30,000 feet from the cockpit of IAF and Naval fighters, transport aircraft and a variety of helicopters - are a poetic mosaic of the stunning variety of India's landscape, from ocean to sky.
A visual feast unlike any attempted before, the book extends from the southern tip of the Andaman Islands to the northernmost point of the Siachen Glacier. It bring alive the relentless beauty of nature's handiwork together with human embellishments over the ages.
An alumnus of Loretto, Lucknow and Miranda House, Dipti Bhalla is an editor and documentary filmmaker trained at the FTII, Pune and the Australian Film and Television School Sydney. In 1992 she became the first woman in India to fly with the Indian Air Force's fighter fleet as the principal still photographer during the shooting of the IAF's history. Her pioneering aerial images of the Siachen and Karakoram regions have found expression in various publications and she has produce more than fifty documentaries under the Kaleidolndia banner in the 15 years.
Kunal Verma is one of the country's most experienced aerial photographers, having logged hundreds of flying hours with the Army, Navy and Air force in particular. Educated at the Doon School and Madras Christian College, he had a hand in opening up some of the trans-Himalayan routes from the Kashmir Valley into Aznskar and Ladakh while working with Tiger tops before switching to journalism and filmmaking. In the mid-1980s he shot the bulk of the Project Tiger serial and has subsequently travelled extensively throughout the subcontinent shooting both on the ground and from the air.
I have had the unique experience of observing our country from outer space, and it was an experience that defies explanation. It is normal for each astronaut to first look for his/her own country after reaching Earth's orbit-quite like how one looks back at the path traversed after reaching the top of a hill or the summit of a mountain. It is only much later that one looks out at the regions one hails from and, later still, the planet in its entirety. That is when one gets to assimilate and reflect on the scale on which things are in space, and also grasp the significance of our home planet.
Strangle, sometimes a wider perspective, though awesome in its sweep, is really not the preferred format for viewing and appreciating natural beauty. This, because distance tends to take the specifics out of visual imagery, thus robbing it of detail. It is in this context that the pictures put together by Kunal and Dipti need to be viewed. They have chronicled the beauty of our country from a vantage point that affords a bird's-eye view of the Indian landscape. In this respect, the reader will get to see India up-close and from a better perspective than astronauts do, at least in terms of detail, if not in sweep.
We are truly blessed to belong to this picturesque country. We get to see and experience many seasons - winter, spring, summer and fall, and here I want to include the monsoon as well, because it dramatically alters the visual appeal of our landscape. With each season, textural changes occur resulting in a differing palette of colours and hues, which enhance the beauty of our land.
India is a tourist's delight - with her long, unbroken coastline with reefs and crags; ghats that appear green; brown plateause; vast green expanses of arable land under cultivation; huge deserts; rivers; lakes, both salt and freshwater; estuaries; hills and valleys; and mountains, dwarfed by the Everest-no less.
The book you are about to read and enjoy, records all this and more. It has been produced with much care and passion by a couple having an eye for beauty and a flair for communication. Enjoy i. I am sure that this will influence many a reader to embark on journeys that shall, for them, result in the rediscovery of India.
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