After the guest list at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the focus has now shifted to guests of a different feather.
A book on the winged visitors of Rashtrapati Bhawan, shot entirely within the 330-acre presidential estate and complete with a brief description of their habit and habitat, will be unveiled on July 25, as part of the celebrations to mark President Pranab Mukherjee’s two years in office. Over 113 avian varieties, half of which are migratory species, have been identified in the extensive lawns, including the Mughal Garden, Herbal Garden, Cactus Garden, the Dallikhana (nursery) and the duck pond near it.
To be printed by the publishing division of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, all photographs in the book are from the personal collection of Additional Secretary Thomas Mathew at the President’s Secretariat.
“The President was keen to document the assets of Rashtrapati Bhawan and he is very fond of nature. That is roughly how the idea of the book came about. We started work in May 2013 and it is now in the last leg… We have identified more than 113 varieties of birds — each one has been photographed in the grounds,” said Mathew.
Among the birds that have been spotted are the purple sunbird, hornbill, black rumped flameback, oriental white-eye and a wide variety of ducks and predatory birds.
This is not the first time that such an exercise is being undertaken. Following an initiative by former President A P J Abdul Kalam, a coffee table book curated by the Bombay Natural History Society was published during his tenure. But none of the photographs used in that book were actually from Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The new book is likely to be a priced publication. Mathew said he roped in Rashtrapati Bhawan’s army of gardeners as bird spotters. Each gardener was given a book commonly used by bird watchers and taught to identify various species. “When a particular bird was spotted, a gardener who did not always know the name of the bird would simply come and tell me he had seen page number 23. I would then go and photograph the bird, or at least I would know where to find it. Once a bird was done, that page was flagged to avoid repetition,” said Mathew.
Besides the book on birds, there are plans to bring out an eight-book series on Rashtrapati Bhawan — including on its kitchens, art and artefacts, the Presidential Bodyguards, the cultural life, and the anecdotal history.