To Save The Tiger, Save The Tree
June 2006: He has launched a thousand poems. Inspired timeless art. Stirred millions of hearts down the ages. And thus far survived brutal assaults by otherwise sane humans who foolishly believe that spilled tiger-blood might magically transfuse valour, courage and power from slain cat to feeble man. Nothing, however, has prepared the tiger to deal with the Indian politician, Politicianicus horiblis.
“Is this your journey’s end?” That was the deadening thought that refused to go away as I sat on the terrace of Ranthambhore’s Jogi Mahal, watching a tiger lap water from across the lotus, bird and crocodile-studded lake stretching out before me.
What a journey! Two million years ago, the ancestors of the tiger I was watching were part of a common population in eastern Asia when a great tiger migration is believed to have taken place. One lot moved north to Siberia and westward, above the Tibetan Plateau, to the Caspian Sea. A second travelled towards South Asia, reaching the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. Some plucky animals made it to Myanmar and the Indian subcontinent. It was the genes of these latter tigers that I have been privileged to watch in Ranthambhore, Corbett, Kaziranga, the Sundarbans and, probably never again, in Sariska.
Which brings us to the most dangerous animal in the world Politicianicus horiblis. He (and she) wears vestments of homespun khadi in deference to the wishes of the father of our nation, Gandhiji. But that’s where the deference stops. Gandhi worshipped nature; Politicianicus horiblis treats nature like a cow that yields money and votes.
Which is why, as you read this, together with plans for dams, mines and what have you, Politicianicus horiblis is determined to hammer through a vote-catching Tribal Bill to steal the tree behind which this tiger stands. In the hope that Politicianicus horiblis respects the Mahabharata more than he respects Gandhiji, I have sent hundreds this verse from the Odyogaparvan. It suggests that “The tiger will die without the forest and the forest will die without the tiger.”
Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVI No. 3, June 2006