People of India – The Young Naturalists – Surya Ramachandran


  1. Who you are (naturally!)

Difficult one with many answers but i’d say…Naturally..i’d say i’m a storyteller, a sports lover and most importantly, a proud south Indian who seems to want to spend 10 months of the year exploring the wild corners of north, north-east and central India.

2. What inspired you to become a naturalist?

I always loved wildlife but as a young school goer, neither I nor the people around me had the awareness on the career options that i can choose to follow this interest of mine. All we had heard about was wildlife filmmaking, biologists, conservationist, ‘activist’ (if i may say so)… but none of these appealed to me as much.  Before joining my undergrad in engineering (the south indian way), i visited Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa with my family. Our naturalist/guide there, Cleo, with his enthusiasm, powerful storytelling, a great sense of humour, field-craft and knowledge, showed me the art of guiding and how one can be a great ambassador for a wilderness area or in-fact, for all the wilderness in the world. And that’s when i chose to be like him.

  1. An anecdote which epitomises your India?

Watching a tigress walk her family of three cubs down the road to the sheer delight of my British guests, all the while listening to the loud bollywood music from the village situated on the other side of the hill from us.

4. One thing that you can’t live without?

A flight or train ticket to some place that has been booked ( i always have atleast one booked flight that takes me somewhere )

5. One thing that you hate?

A horrible or non-existent work ethic

6. If  you could change one thing about India what would it be?

The way its going, id split it up into 10 different countries. South Indians and Maharashtrians can fight over Goa for entertainment.

7. Who is your greatest inspiration?

My Dad – showed me how to be content with what one has in life. Biggest step towards happiness.

8. What is your favourite quote?

‘The day you find the locals attractive, please leave my lodge’- Hashim Tyabji ( Let me add here that he didn’t mean to say that the locals aren’t attractive, just that he didn’t want any trouble because of us young hot-blooded south Indian naturalists!)

9. I have noticed huge changes in India over the last few years but what is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?

Well I started noticing things about my country only 7 years ago ( I’m only 28 now) . I’d say the main thing that has changed is the freedom of the press. At one time we used to respect our news presenters, but that is literally non-existent these days.

10.What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces over the next ten years?

Holding on to the 1% of protected forest land that is left in our country. It seems strange that there is 99 percent of ruined land in our country but they still seem to want to chew away from this 1% forest land to keep the country going. (It at least speaks a lot about the importance of well protected wilderness habitats)

11. Which is the destination at the top of your bucket list?


12. What is the one place you visited that you have NO desire to return to?

Dachigam National Park – Jammu and Kashmir – got cheated so badly there that I wish Id never been there or met those local ‘experts’.

13. Book or Movie?

Movie mostly (I’m from the land of Rajnikanth), but must say that books are slowly working they’re way into my system.

14. I am doing a survey to find India’s most popular breakfast, what is yours?

Podi Dosa ( Gun Powder and Ghee Dosa) in a restaurant chain called Sangeetha in Chennai.

15. In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year old self.

‘It’s all going to be okay'(For sure till your 28), stop worrying so much’


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