Loving and Losing Space of Nature in the City

“One can never tell
When trees would start walking
And to where…”

the-secret-abode-of-firefliesSays K. Satchidanandan in a heartfelt poem on trees in ‘The Secret Abode of Fireflies’, the latest Youthreach publication. Lush, colourful and evocative, the book explores the love and the loss of trees and diminishing natural spaces in the city. And it does so through many voices and perspectives – of writers, poets, environmentalists, urban planners, activists, craftspeople, photographers, tree lovers and artists as it both celebrates wilderness spaces of cities and stands testimony to their loss.

The Secret Abode… holds up a mirror to human life in cities that are fast growing to be concrete jungles with diminishing room for the natural. The roadside tree, the city forest, the neighbourhood park – they, and with them human existence, are all under the threat of destruction. The book is an attempt to inform and empower people to make sensitive environmental choices, return life to their cities and reclaim the ‘fireflies’ that once were.

The publication, edited by Nanni Singh and co-edited by Leena Labroo and Ritika Dhameja, was released September 2010 at the India Habitat Centre. Over 500 people, including those from the media, attended.
Priced at Rs 950, the proceeds from the sale of the publication have gone towards supporting future Youthreach projects. The book is available at all leading book stores across the metros and at the Youthreach office.

If you would like to place a bulk order for the books, please contact Ritika Dhameja ( at the Youthreach office.


“And I bowed to ‘The Secret…”
I have recently bowed to a new book ‘The Secret Abode of Fireflies’, as heart-breaking in its beauty as in the loss it records. The profusion of visuals has made it my object of daily worship. They range from verdant nature parks within municipal limits to a shower of Parijat blooms raining their benediction on a shabby street to an intricate Mithila cloth painting. Destruction lies in our very own building.
– Bachi Karkaria (The Times of India)

Peppered with interviews, essays, photographs and poems, the book discusses the relationship between man and nature in a dynamic, ever changing city space within the country and beyond.
– Mumbai Mirror

It is rare to come across a book whose body glimmers with meanings that don’t seek to define. ‘The Secret Abode…’ blurs many notions and erases those lines between the esoteric and tangible, man and ecology, loss and gain, prose and poetry, words and images. Each first intersperses and then magically seems to speak for the other. The book sets a new tone – not of a single dazzle or burst but one previously unheard of. Soft, caressing, traces of story, seemingly disparate and then interwoven much like waves to the sea, rhythmically hitting with each page and then leaving one hungry for more.
– Suparna Bhalla, Architect

Celebrating the Spirit of India’s Disadvantaged Urban Child

“Here are children that you see all too often… as you drive or ride or walk to work, as you walk in and out of entertainments spaces, your local market, anywhere, everywhere… Unique as every child is, the children of ‘If I were rain’ are representative of the ten million who live on India’s streets and a whole lot more who live in the slums of our urban centres. Their stories are shared, and, often, untold. Their lives are highly visible yet, often, unseen.”
– Nanni Singh, former Executive Director, Youthreach

if-i-were-rain‘If I were rain’ celebrates the spirit of India’s disadvantaged urban children through their stories, poems, paintings – and some truly powerful photography. Edited by Nanni Singh and photo-edited by the late Prabuddha Dasgupta, the book creates and provides a platform for the children to speak for themselves for the first time to a wide national and international audience. With its focus on awareness, civil society engagement and fundraising the book is structured around the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

After the success of the first print of 4000 copies, Youthreach decided to go into a second and third reprint. ‘If I were rain’ received tremendous acclaim and touched the hearts of people nationally and internationally. To date, approximately 11,000 copies of the book have been sold all over India through leading book stores, retail outlets, corporate entities and individuals.
The funds from sales of books have been disbursed to other partner organisations to further
their programmes, in the areas of education, health and vocational training and for future Youthreach projects.

Youthreach also made an audio-visual film ‘If I were rain’ incorporating the voice recordings of the children. Accompanied by evocative visuals, the voices add immediacy to the stories and become a powerful tool to communicate the spirit of the book.


“I have never read anything so moving…”
I came upon ‘If I were Rain’ at the Taj Mumbai bookstore. It is, quite simply, stunning.

I have bought a copy for a professor of mine at the London School of Economics that works in the field of child rights. I hope that you’ll be able to publish the book in the US and UK as well.

It is extraordinary. I have never read anything so moving, so beautifully arranged, that reveals the full humanity and beauty and wonder of street children and disadvantaged youth. You have done incredible work. As someone who has worked with street children in South Africa, Argentina, and now in India, I always strive to find a way to convey to friends the beliefs and sentiments that fuel my commitment to these children. Your book does that in a way that nothing else has. – Noam Schimmel

I have just finished reading through your book, and I loved it. The photography was lovely, this is what attracted the book to me at the shop, and now having read the words of the children, I love it even more. As a visitor to your country, and coming from a place such as Australia, where most of us live a privileged life, it is very hard to imagine what life is like for a lot of people there, especially the children. This book has helped me to see a little of this life, one that is often hard and more tragic than I would wish on anyone. I love to see that most still have hope and can express themselves so eloquently. Thank you for the book – after reading it I have sponsored a child in Thailand through World Vision.
– Susan Gordon Brown

Voices from the City

‘Dreams and Journeys’ is a book about 53 young people in Delhi that Youthreach reached out to through its programmes. Sponsored by Alcatel Lucent, the book chronicles their aspirations and accomplishments as they seek to create a life of promise made possible by Youthreach funded-programmes on art and apprenticeship, skill building and entrepreneurship. These young people have accessed these programmes through a network of NGO partners. The publication inspires and encourages the public at large to make available such opportunities and fund similar programmes.

Two thousand copies of the book have been printed and are being sold at all leading book stores in Delhi and retail outlets.


“Perfect antidote to the gloom of recession talk”
It really is the perfect antidote to the sustained gloom of recession talk. It’s true that subjects and investigators are a self-selected group, and that happy stories were more likely to make it, and also that without the backbone of hard numbers this remains an impressionistic sampling. Yet the stories and overall message are credible. – Business Standard

‘Dreams and Journeys’ shows how initiatives can go a long way. – The Hindu

‘Like the rags-to-riches story of Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire, there are many in the city who have dared to follow their dreams and managed to fulfill them.’ – The Asian Age

All our three publications have received critical acclaim and touched the hearts of people nationally and internationally. To date, more than 22,000 books have been sold through leading book stores, retail outlets, corporates and individuals. The sale proceeds have been disbursed to our partner organisations to further their programmes in the areas of education, health and vocational training.

You can purchase our publications here.