Episode 11: Rohini Nilekani on the Pleasures of Being in Nature

Rohini Nilekani

“To be able to conserve and protect, you have to observe and love,” says philanthropist Rohini Nilekani. “Being in nature, you get this sense of continuing renewing wonder,” she says. In this episode, Rohini talks about her favourite birds and why conserving nature is an “enlightened self-interest” for humanity as a whole.

Rohini Nilekani is a thoughtful and intuitive philanthropist, author, journalist, columnist, television anchor, punster, funster and a champion of wildlife. She combines a deep empathy for wildlife with a sharp, quick, and curious mind. She loves nature and the outdoors and is most comfortable in her beloved forests and mountains wearing her trademark cap and carrying her binoculars. Her enthusiasm for the world of wildlife is infectious. Her involvement with wildlife includes the following. She is a board member of ATREE, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, a board member of Science Gallery Bengaluru, on the Artificial Recharge of Ground Water Advisory Council of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, an elected Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.

Rohini has done a television documentary about her encounters with a black panther. You can watch Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Rohini Nilekani is the Founder-Chairperson of Arghyam, a foundation she set up for sustainable water and sanitation, which funds initiatives all across India. From 2004 to 2014, she was Founder-Chairperson and chief funder of Pratham Books, a non-profit children’s publisher that reached millions of children during her tenure. She is the Co-founder and Director of EkStep, a non-profit education platform. She sits on the Board of Trustees of ATREE, an environmental think tank, and serves on the Eminent Persons Advisory Group of the Competition Commission of India.

A former journalist, she has written for many leading publications such as Times of India, India Today, Mint, etc. Penguin Books India published her first book, a medical thriller called Stillborn, and her second non-fiction book, ‘Uncommon Ground’, based on her eponymous TV show. She has written several books for young children, published by Pratham Books, including the popular “Annual Haircut Day”. In 2017, she was inducted as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Well Being Project from 2019.

Rohini Nilekani is a committed philanthropist and in 2017, she, together with her husband Nandan Nilekani, signed the Giving Pledge, which commits half their wealth to philanthropic causes.

Rohini’s photograph by Sandesh Kadur

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