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Mark Shand lived life jumbo size. After all, he was "deeply and madly" in love with Asian elephants. And he was at home in India.
Shand — the brother of Duchess of Cornwall Camilla and brother-in-law of Prince Charles — died in New York on Wednesday after falling and suffering fatal injuries on his head. He was 62.
Parbati Barua, the only female elephant trainer and guide in the country whom Shand had dubbed the 'Queen of Elephants', shed a silent tear on Thursday for the man who shared her passion for the gentle giants.
"He was a good man, one among the very few people who loved elephants genuinely," said Barua over phone from her home at Guwahati. She is the honorary chief wildlife warden of Assam.
Shand's book 'Queen of the Elephants', based on Barua's life and work, had won the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and was made into a BBC documentary.
"He spent several months with us, trying to learn the art of catching elephants as well training them. I will miss him very much," added Barua, 62, who hails from the royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Gauripur, now in Assam's Goalpara district.
This reporter had met the famed British travel writer in February 2005, during the centenary celebrations of the Kaziranga National Park, home to the one-horned rhino as well as the Asian elephant.
He was appointed as the game reserve's 'international brand ambassador' by the Assam government.
He revealed he had 'donated' his beloved Tara to Belinda Wright, a friend and founder of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, so that she could draw tourists to Kipling Camp, a resort in Madhya Pradesh's Kanha National Park.
But such was his passion for Tara, and for Asian elephants in general, that he visited Kipling Camp several times every year just to be with her.
He also authored the River Dog, a chronicle of his journey down the Brahmaputra with a dog called Bhaiti (Assamese for brother).
Shand was associated with an elephant conservation programme in Jaipur and was also a close friend of Maharani Gayatri Devi.