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The Illustrated Tigers of India

Valmik Thapar's book gives fascinating insights on the crisis looming in the big cat's world, writes Kumkum Dasgupta.

books Updated: Jul 31, 2007 16:51 IST
Kumkum Dasgupta
Kumkum Dasgupta
Hindustan Times
tigers

The Illustrated Tigers of India
Author: Valmik Thapar
Publisher: Oxford
Price: Rs 225
Pages: 114

Summers in Middle India can be killing. But a few years ago, I decided to brave the searing heat and make a trip to the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

The reason: I was told that chances of sighting a tiger was pretty high in this park. Much to my delight, I managed to see one full-grown tiger and two cubs on the first day itself. While I was coming out of the park after the safari, a noticeboard caught my eye.

It had a tiger's face painted on it and read: "You may not have seen me, but I have seen you. Visit me again!" These days, whenever I think of those words, I wonder whether the next generation would be lucky enough like me to see the majestic animal in the wild.

Well-known tiger expert Valmik Thapar's latest book, The Illustrated Tigers of India, echoes a similar concern. But before he debates the future of the big cats in India, he lays out before us the fascinating world of tigers. The lucid text revolves around the birth, childhood, skills and adulthood of tigers. <b1>

The author draws from his rich experience of watching tigers for 25 years and uses real incidents from the wild to garnish the text.

The accounts have been made more engaging by adding extracts of writings of other tiger watchers, recent as well as earlier ones like Jim Corbett.

Nuggets of information have been woven beautifully in the bigger story canvas: for instance, the eyes of a tiger provide binocular and 3-D vision and they need only one-sixth of the light human eyes need to see; sometimes one in ten attacks is successful, at other times 15; and a tiger can run at speeds of up to 90 km per hour.

It will be unfair to write this review without mentioning anything about the illustrations and the photographs.

Every illustration is beautiftilly rendered and brings out the true character of the predator and its different moods. The photographs are evocative and embellish the text.

While many not agree with Thapar about the best ways of tackling the tiger crisis, there is no denying the fact that whatever we do has to be done on a war footing.

The book is timely and will hopefully sensitise more people on the issue so that there is a sustained pressure on the government to tackle the situation with much more seriousness.