Sunday Mail: About EHA – A Naturalist on the Prowl

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hello friends,

Good morning. This Sunday, I thought, I could introduce EHA to my readers. EHA belongs to another era but his delightful writings and pen-and-ink sketches on nature and wildlife is a sheer joy to the reader. I have attached two of his complete works: 1. Concerning Animals 2. The Common Birds of India. You can download PDFs of some of his books FREE. Please log on to:

Naturalist of the yore

Edward Hamilton Aitken (born 16 August 1851 in Satara, India, died 11 April 1909 Edinburgh was a humorist, naturalist and a writer especially on the wildlife of India. He was well known to Anglo-Indians by the pen-name of Eha. His higher education was obtained at Bombay and Pune. He passed M.A. and B.A. of Bombay University first on the list, and won the Homejee Cursetjee prize with a poem in 1880. From 1870 to 1876 he taught Latin at the Deccan College in Pune. He also knew Greek and was known to be able to read the Greek Testament without the aid of a dictionary.

He grew up in India and it was only later in life that he visited England for the first time and he found the weather of Edinburgh severe. EHA recorded his personal observations of the smallest creatures with a signature literary style. So remarkably absorbing were his descriptions that the great ornithologist Salim Ali says in his autobiography The Fall of a Sparrow, “Among my favourite and most admired naturalist writers are W.H.Hudson and E.H.Aitken (better known as EHA).” Salim Ali praises EHA for devoting extra attention to honing and polishing his “seemingly effortless essays.” Salim Ali also edited 3rd edition of his book The Common Birds of Bombay published as The Common Birds of India in 1915.

The finely tuned sense of humour and equally acute sense of drama in nature make the books a pleasurable read. The Sahib-style narrative lends a unique charm. EHA was undoubtedly a unique literary species himself. The little exaggerations quickly become unimportant, because there is an underlying charm to his stories. They contain the message of how much is happening around us, and how little we care to notice.

EHA’s books include:
The Tribes on my Frontier
An Indian Naturalist’s Foreign Policy (1883)
Behind the Bungalow (1889)
The Naturalist on the Prowl (1894)
The Common Birds of Bombay (1900)

Very best wishes,
Mohan Pai

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