Indian Landscapes on the Brink

Marginlands is a tour de force, a magnificent first book”—ROBERT MACFARLANE
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Celebrated National Geographic Explorer Arati Kumar-Rao blends enthralling nature writing, journalism, immersive art, and photography to create a vivid and urgent portrait of India’s diverse ecological wonders, teetering on the edge.

In Marginlands, Arati Kumar-Rao invites readers on an immersive and revealing journey through her homeland’s diverse regions, ecosystems, and communities—both human and wild—that have defined India and are now threated by industry and urbanization.

From the shifting sand of the Thar desert to the floodplains of Assam, from the Goa coast to dense forests of Arunachal Pradesh, to the shores of Kerala, the artificial glaciers of Ladakh in the Himalayas, and the sandbar islands in the river Ganga, Kumar-Rao reveals both natural wonder and our reckless blunders. There are wolves, dolphins, tigers, bees, black-necked cranes, crocodiles, and countless fish and fauna that reside in these varied ecosystems, and Rao shares their stories along with those of the human inhabitants—shepherds, fishermen, and farmers—whose lives and livelihood are dependent on the health of these sacred and life-sustaining landscapes. But as mining, commercial fishing, industry, the damming of rivers, and commerce expand at a breakneck pace, will the health and beauty that have defined these places survive? Can nature—with human ingenuity, compassion, and commitment—heal and ultimately persevere?

With deep empathy, sweeping lyricism, and unmatched attentiveness, Kumar-Rao celebrates the overlooked, the unseen, and the anything-but-ordinary of the natural world and the need to advocate for its preservation. Urgent and inspiring, Marginlands encourages readers to honor interconnectedness everywhere.

Publish Date
8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 in
17 oz

Arati Kumar-Rao

Arati Kumar-Rao is a National Geographic Explorer, an independent environmental photographer, a writer, and an artist. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Emergence, BBC, and in leading Indian publications.

Praise and Prizes

  • Marginlands is a tour de force, a magnificent first book about India’s marginalized landscapes and inhabitants (human and more-than-human), which takes its readers from the high Himalayas to the Sundarban delta, from the deserts of the Thar to the climate-change-ravaged Keralan coastline and beyond. Born of hard, committed, long-term first-hand witnessing of places and people, it is written with compassion, compressed elegance of observation, and urgent political force. Kumar-Rao’s book joins new voices, including Yuvan Aves (Intertidal) and Neha Sinha (Wild and Wilful), proving that a powerful, hopeful resurgence of Indian nature writing is happening right now.”

    Robert Macfarlane
    author of Underland: A Deep Time Journey
  • “Arati Kumar-Rao writes with grace and empathy about traditional forms of resilience and how they help ordinary people survive, and even flourish, in the most demanding environments—and about the often devastating impacts of clumsy interventions by the state. This is some of the best environmental writing I have read in a long time.”

    Amitav Ghosh
    author of The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
  • “Our grandchildren will be reading Arati Kumar-Rao to understand the momentous decisions that our generation faced—and, shamefully, more often than not shirked—in valuing and safeguarding the last dazzling but imperiled ecological riches of the Indian subcontinent. Luminously written with slashing honesty and profound empathy, Kumar-Rao gifts us with a traveler’s haunting account of the vast stakes involved in India’s environmental emergencies, as well as moving homages to the keepers of traditional systems of knowledge who, if we only listened to them as carefully as she does, could help rescue what remains.”

    Paul Salopek
    two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer