Maps on his mind
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At first glance, it looks like a rather elaborate algorithm. On closer inspection, the algorithm reveals its true nature — it's a map of the river network of Uttarakhand. Exact and detailed, this map is surprisingly easy to read.
Meet Shashank Srinivasan — map-maker, ecologist, photographer, wildlife enthusiast and part-time cycle tour guide of Delhi. When plotted, his life would make a very engrossing map. Brought up in Kolkata, studied in Bangalore and England, he works in Delhi and dwells in mountains as the 'About me' section on his website puts it: "While I am currently based in India, I do most of my work remotely."
Now a freelance cartographer, Srinivasan has worked with various outfits, both non-profit and government-run, such as the WWF, NTCA, Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Ministry of Environment on projects dealing with climate change, conservation and urban planning.
Speaking enthusiastically on the Tso Kar Basin project he was involved with, he explains how maps helped effectively and easily predict the times of conflict between migratory patterns of birds and movements of nomadic tribes of Ladakh, shedding much-needed light on a fragile eco-system. It's a project he hopes to revive.
Cartographer and ecologist by design, he is, however, an accidental cycle tour guide. This "cycling evangelist", as he likes to call himself, stumbled upon 'Delhi by Cycle', a see-Delhi-on-wheels initiative started in 2009 by a Dutchman. The routine of conducting these tours gives him a sense of 'going to work', a feeling otherwise absent in his nomadic map-making existence.
Srinivasan brims over with plans on unusual ways of looking at Delhi's cityscape — maps he intends to draw of second-hand bookstores, seeing Delhi through older eyes of the seven cities that flourished before.
Plans for setting up a non-profit outfit specialising in spatial design are afoot, he says. And while that dream unfolds, he continues to make meaning of land, eco-systems and communities through the tools he knows best — maps.
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