Not ready to retire yet: elderly couple on the nature trail

Not ready to retire yet: elderly couple on the nature trail


Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi
| Photo Credit: ARRANGEMENT

As lecturers of zoology and botany, respectively, Seetha Khambhampati (72) and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi (82) fired the imagination of hundreds of students with the beauty and complexity of the natural world. Post retirement, they are chasing their passion for nature and wildlife photography, which has taken them to nearly 25 countries so far.

After a three-decade stint as lecturers at CKM College, Warangal, the elderly couple moved to Hyderabad and embarked on their adventure. They have covered the length and breadth of not only India, but also the US, Europe, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Their newfound love is capturing birds in natural habitat. “It is vyasanam (an addiction) that takes us to different places,” says Mr. Srinivasa Rao in a conversation with  The Hindu.

Coffee table book

Their travels resulted in a coffee table book titled  Birds Beautiful and a travelogue,  Vishwa Viharam. The travel book was released at a function by Andhra Jyothy editor K. Srinivas, and the one on birds by Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society, UK, Tamma Srinivasa Reddy. The foreword for the travelogue was penned by activist-writer Varavara Rao.

The couple developed an interest in bird watching and photography four years ago. “The new-found interest took us to some of the most happening birding sites in India, not once but multiple times,” Ms. Seetha points out.

Photo of a red-whiskered bulbul captured by the couple.
| Photo Credit:
Arrangement

“During our visits to birding sites, we could see and capture over 400 birds on camera,” Mr. Srinivasa Rao remarks. Explaining the nuances of bird watching, he says, “Identifying the birds by their sound and spotting them is possible only with the support of an experienced and knowledgeable local guide.” 

He admits that a bird watcher needs to travel extensively to far-off places during different seasons, and that birding demands a lot of patience: “The ultimate challenge is to capture the right moment.”

The smaller the bird, the quicker its movements and getting a glimpse becomes difficult even with binoculars, he says, adding, “Despite being armed with good technical skills, high-end cameras and knowledge of the birds, bird photography can be a challenge even for experts.”

1,300 bird species

Speaking from his knowledge as a lecturer in botany, Mr. Srinivasa Rao says the Indian subcontinent boasts of nearly 1,300 bird species, which is about 13% of the estimated global numbers.

Beyond their travel and photography endeavours, the couple have multifaceted personalities. Ms Seetha is a national-level swimming champion and has proved herself as a prolific travelogue writer by contributing articles and photographs to several leading Telugu newspapers in the last couple of years.

Mr.Srinivasa Rao received recognition through several awards in State and national-level competitions. His interest in movies has seen him serving as vice-president of the Warangal Film Society for 25 years. He is a passionate wood sculptor as well.

The couple’s achievements were acknowledged by Mr.Tamma Srinivasa Reddy. “The inherent ornithology knowledge of the botanist and zoologist Seetha Khambhampati and Srinivasa Rao Somanchi, coupled with their acquired love and patience, produced the remarkable book,” he wrote in the introduction of the birds book.

The 260-page book with all the bird varieties in their natural habitat is a treat to read. “Bird watching is said to be a stress-buster and those who don’t have the luxury of going out into the nature can get vicarious joy with this book. Birds Beautiful is sure to evoke the responsibility in the connoisseurs to save birds,” he adds.