My Tryst With Big Cats
My Tryst with Big Cats written by Ratan Lal Brahmachary is reviewed by Shubhobroto Ghosh
By Ratan Lal Brahmachary
Published by Naturism Books,
Price: Rs. 250
My earliest memories of reading Ratan Lal Brahmachary’s articles go back to my school days in the 80s and 90s when he was a regular contributor to the Statesman. I remember vividly, his articles on tigers and pheromones and his reminiscences of George Adamson, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. Later, I read two of his books in Bangla on his African sojourn, and his research on tigers, lions and elephants. I remember the enormous thrill I felt at realising that an Indian scientist could break national boundaries and conduct studies on wild animals in Africa. His erudition and depth of knowledge remains etched in my memory to this day.
Thus, it was with a pleasant sense of renewing acquaintances that I read his latest book, My Tryst With Big Cats at the Delhi Book Fair in February 2015. The book is based on his notes made on big cats and dates back to 1981. He had compiled them and had reconciled that these would never see the light of day, but Naturism has taken the initiative to bring these valuable observations into the public domain and we are all enriched by the endeavour.
Dr. Brahmachary studied tigers and their scent-marking behaviour in Kanha, and his fascination for big cats and the role of pheromones led him to Similipal where he met S. R. Choudhury and Khairi, the famous tame tigress, and eventually across the seas to Kenya where he forged an abiding friendship with stalwarts such as George Adamson.
The book also focusses on the fairytale relationships between man and animals. Dr. Brahmachary is a scientist, but he is also an intellectual, who comprehends the emotional bond between man and animal, as the one that took place between Billy Arjan Singh and Tara, the tigress, and Gareth Patterson and his lion cubs. He notes the differences between animals as subtly as an anthropologist would note individual differences between humans.
The remarkable bit about Dr. Brahmachary’s work is that his African experience was a product of his own toil; he spent all his life’s savings to live his dream, venturing from the confines of the populous city of Kolkata to the pristine wildernesses of Africa. In the course of his travels, he met numerous researchers and students who testify to his humility and his dedication.
This is a book that should be read by as many people as possible, regardless of whether they are interested in wildlife, because it is a portrayal of one man chasing his dreams and succeeding. Considering that Dr. Brahmachary worked during an age when the buzzwords of conservation and environmental protection were almost unheard of, My Tryst With Big Cats assumes greater significance.
Reviewed by Shubhobroto Ghosh, Senior Programme Officer, TRAFFIC India.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, April 2015.