Panchkula Lit Fest 2014: The Nawaab’s spirited jung

  • Aneesha Bedi, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Dec 21, 2014 14:08 IST

One can’t help but notice the stark resemblance Saad Bin Jung bears to his maternal uncle, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. His unkempt salt and pepper hair complements his look.

Jung hails from the erstwhile royal families of Bhopal, the Pataudis, and the aristocratic family of Paigah, of Hyderabad. It was natural that he grew up with cricket and a love for wildlife. He is a low-key royal who prefers to work silently with the tribals in the jungles of Kabini. Like his uncle, he played cricket but retired when he was at the peak of his career.

“I had seen everything in cricket,” says Saad, “the fame, the money, the treatment, and yet chose to retire early. Not that I wasn’t playing well, but the calling was different. For two years, I was admitted in hospital due to an illness and after that I played for a while and decided to retire from the sport which earned me international recognition.”

While Saad can keep his audience engaged with wonderful stories of his childhood and adventures in the wild, there is a serious side to him as well. When he comes to the topic of jungles and tribal living, his tone quickly shifts to that of an activist. Living in the jungle and working for the tribals, Saad clearly feels their plight. Although he is a conservationist, he also demands, “How do these people who were living and eating from the jungle live if they are banned from entering the forest? They aren’t the cause of deforestation. Where is the alternative for them? What about the women whose breasts were cut for no fault of theirs? No-one stands up for them!”

Having worked as a member of the Wildlife Advisory Board of Karnataka, Saad spent extended periods of time living deep in Indian and African jungles amongst numerous tribes. When asked whether his recent book ‘Matabele Dawn’ was a culmination of these experiences, he says, “These fortunate meetings have made me realise that conservation is all about addressing a conflict. The tribals are forgotten people that eke out a living against all odds.”

He adds, “It is nice to be back in a familiar space for a change. But I would prefer the wilderness any day.” And this wilderness helped Saad complete the book comparing his life in India and Africa. He describes the book as a thought-provoking journey through the heart of Africa and India. Saad elaborates, “Matabeleland was a thriving nation in erstwhile Zimbabwe. When Cecil Rhodes believed that King Solomon’s mines were located here, he mowed down the tribe. In a matter of months Matabeleland ceased to exist. No such mines were found but beautiful people were annihilated.”

Referring to the recent tragedy in Peshawar, he says, “What Taliban did in Pakistan is horrendous, but has anyone questioned its roots? It’s what the US did in Afghanistan or what to Sikhs in India.”

The descendant of the Paigah family is also troubled at the ease with which India rescinded on its constitutional assurances. He says, “One such promise being the abolishment of the privy purses; having experienced first-hand life among a beautiful set of truly vulnerable people, I witnessed the 5,000-year-old institution of Indian royalty being wiped out from the face of this earth in a matter of days.” Also the author of ‘Wild Tales From The Wild’ and ‘Subhan & I’, Saad has already started working on his next book which will be on the Hindustani Muslim.

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