We Only Have Human Words to Describe Non-Humans


The much-anticipated book launch took place mid-June in Hyderabad. Pittie, known for his significant contributions to South Asian ornithology, including the editing of the ornithological journal ‘Indian Birds’. His notable work includes ‘Birds in Books’, ‘Three Hundred Years of South Asian Ornithology’, and ‘The Written Bird: Birds in Books.

The launch was followed by a lively discussion between the author and Sita Reddy, a writer, researcher, and curator, whose recent work on nature has focused on cultural histories of flora, trees, forests, gardens, landscapes, and ecosystems.

Pittie revealed that the title ‘The Living Air‘ was inspired by the inner eye of human beings, a poignant reminder to live in the moment. This concept, he explained, resonated throughout the book, creating a tapestry of thoughts dedicated to the art of mindfulness and presence.


General impression of size and shape” (GISS) is about reflection and understanding, and the identification of birds can be challenging based on their general look alone. The term GISS, derived from the concept of identifying aircraft, plays a crucial role in bird identification. He stressed, “The more you are in the field, the more it gets easier for you to identify birds.”


Aasheesh Pittie

“Anything we write is a form of anthropomorphism because we only have human words to describe non-humans. You can’t cross the blood-plasma barrier.” This insightful remark sparked a stimulating discussion about the limitations and capabilities of language in understanding and describing the non-human world.

Pittie recommends listening to Nikhil Banerjee’s ‘Megh’ during the monsoon, a personal ritual that helps him connect with nature and birds on a deeper level. He shared a list of book recommendations for the audience, fostering a shared spirit of discovery and learning. The event was not just a book launch but a platform encouraging continuous education and appreciation for the natural world.

The launch event nicely blended literature, ornithology, and environmental consciousness. With stunning visuals and personal insights Pittie highlighted the critical role that nature, and specifically birds, play in our understanding of the world around us and our place within it.

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