Review: Life on Air by David Attenborough

Life on Air
Life on Air
When I was younger, probably in early teens if I remember correctly, I happened to see a show on plants on Discovery. I had no idea at that time what the show was called and even lesser so about who the host was. But it was very interesting and beautifully shot. And the host's voice added an unbelievable charm to the visuals. Usually, when a show is over, I wait to see all the credits as well so that I get to know who were the people behind it, by which production house it was made and who was the presenter. The host turned out to be David Attenborough. Slightly funny name, I thought. For I associated 'Atten' with 'Attic' and attics were interesting - the way they looked. And 'Borough' was associated with 'Burrow'. Only years down the line I realized who this man was. And how innocently immature my associations of his name were. Nonetheless, I remembered his name clearly for the show left a very positive imprint on my mind. Since then I have watched a couple more of his shows and they, as always, were enthralling. I used to feel hypnotized during his shows.

A couple of months ago my brother got some reward points in his organization for some good work he must have done. Usually he doesn't take care to use these things. And he passed them on to me. I readily took them. For there were many books on my wishlist on Flipkart, a popular online retailer. But those gems could be redeemed only at a specific online retailer's portal. And only a few days ago I happened to know that there were even books written by Sir David Attenborough. Dejectedly I created a new account on the new portal and bought this book. It arrived in a couple of days but didn't have time to read it back then as I was occupied with JM Robert's 'The New Penguin History of the World'.

Finally I started reading it around ten days ago. And it had no 'Preface' or 'Foreword'. I guess only Attenborough can afford to do that. He doesn't need them. He starts directly with 'Joining Auntie'. And the chapters are as comical as his shows are when they involve animals. I could 'hear' in my mind all along Attenborough dictating the chapters to me. Such is his cult. At least for me it is. The book is a treasure trove on various animals, insects and plants from all around the world. Of course not just about anyone can pick up this book and start reading. Unless you are a big fan of his you wouldn't have the patience of reading in vivid detail the pains and the glories which accompanied him during his years as a broadcaster. Anecdotes are many and kept me engrossed. In fact to read this book I changed my schedule. I used to sleep early in the night so that I could get up early in the morning when none of my noisy roommates were up and could read with peace.

One of my favorite incidents in the book is of a tribe displaying it's over aggressive nature when they see Attenborough and the accompanying tribe in their region of the forest. It was in Guinea. They apparently put up the behavior only to show that they weren't weak, but were welcoming all the time. Yes, there are a couple of chapters which I found the most boring when compared with other chapters. That was only because they were about the management shifts in the BBC, the juggling of top management and the related administrative problems faced back then. They were difficult to finish as they had none of Attenborough's wilder side. I wish he had covered a little more about his family and especially about his wife in the book. On how she managed to live by herself for months at end when he was away in the jungles. Also, the end of the book was a little too plain. I was expecting some heartwarming paragraphs by him, but they were more about the techniques and the evolution of technicalities of cameras spanning his career. Maybe I felt that way because I didn't pay much attention to the word 'broadcaster' in the title.

The book is one of the best I have read till date. And will remain so. And it has a special place because firstly it is about animals and plants, both of which attract me all the time. Secondly, it is by one of my favorite presenters. I wonder if there is a way of buying DVD's of all of David Attenborough's shows. If that were to be, I wouldn't hesitate to buy it. And I also wish I could meet him in person. I don't know how, but I want to. His experiences are so rich, that no money can buy. This is what I call 'A Perfect Life'.

A highly recommended read for all, but only after having seen at least a couple of his shows to get an idea of who this great man is. 'Attic Burrow' if I may call him!