The evolution of Ruth Padel

The evolution of Ruth Padel

British poet Ruth Padel spoke of the need to protect the tiger at her reading in Bangalore on Friday

Like her ancestor Charles Darwin, animals are central to her work

Staff Reporter
Saturday, Jan 09, 2010

BANGALORE: It was an evening that brought science, poetry, religion and faith together — all territories that Charles Darwin may have precariously trodden before he wrote The Origin of Species in 1859.

His great-great-granddaughter Ruth Padel, award-winning poet and writer, read out parts of her book Darwin: A Life in Poems at the Crossword Bookstore at a reading organised by Toto Funds the Arts (TFA) in collaboration with the Association of British Scholars, British Council, here on Friday evening, just as the 150th anniversary of the theory of evolution goes by.

Ms. Padel, in this book, has not only captured chronological snapshots of Darwin’s life through letters and journals, available to us online, but has also dwelt on the lesser known aspects of his life, like his relationship with wife Emma Wedgewood.

In her poems lie a wonderfully crafted biography of the man — and his work she described “as everybody having a stake in” — tinted with humour and written with ease.

Ms. Padel is in the country on a British Council Darwin Now research grant as she completes her novel Where the Serpent Lives, which is set in India. She said she spent much time last month in the Western Ghats with conservation zoologist K. Ullas Karanth. She also read from her memoir Tigers in Red Weather, for which she travelled to India, Nepal, China and Russia, among other countries, studying the status of this endangered species.

She was in conversation with Bangalore-based poet and novelist Anjum Hasan when she said: “Much of the problem is with countries like China wanting to legalise tiger farming, and India is resisting this,” speaking of the need to protect the tiger in its natural habitat.

The audience asked questions about merging poetry and science, in response to which Ms. Padel quoted Dr. Karanth: “Science goes towards the truth, but doesn’t get there.”

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