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Updated: March 10, 2014 20:21 IST

Operation Tiger

NIMI KURIAN
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If you want something done well, you have to do it yourself. That’s what sets Bagha off on his mission.

Visitors before breakfast can be an inconvenience. But if you had a tiger at your door at that time it could be termed as slightly more than just inconvenience. And more so if the tiger were to address you: “Hey kid. Its been a long walk. How about some breakfast?” Oops, that is startling. But what Rana did was shut the door and walk back to the kitchen where his grandfather was making toast.

“He sat down at the table, feeling a little dizzy.

‘I think I just saw something.’

…Rana took a deep breath to steady his beating heart. ‘I thought I saw a tiger and he talked to me. And I understood what he said.’”

His grandfather’s reaction to this revelation is even more surprising. All he asks is ‘Did the tiger seem angry?’

A good beginning that keeps you wondering what it is about talking tigers and breakfast and family. But it is not really a talking tiger after all. Rana, who is brought up by his grandfather, taught him Junglespeak before he taught him English! In fact, his grandfather says children lose the ability to learn Junglespeak past the age of three.

Save the beast

The tiger gains entry into the house, and no, it is not going to devour Rana and grandfather. The tiger and grandfather knew each other more than a decade ago and there has been a misunderstanding. Grandfather was Chief Wildlife Officer at the Ranthambore National Park, and as he says it was “the happiest days of my life”.

The tiger is on a mission. One to save his fellow beasts. There have been reports of tigers going missing from the safest of safe places — wildlife reserves. And not only in India, but also in Bangladesh and Nepal. The numbers of the vanished tigers is shocking, running into several hundred. This situation cannot continue and someone or something must do the work of saving the tigers. It is a job for the Animal Intelligence Agency.

So what is this Animal Intelligence Agency and what is Rana’s and grandfather’s role in it? Or do they have a role? The Animal Intelligence Agency is a “multi-species non-governmental agency”. The agency has specially trained animal and human agents to work undercover to save animals and the world.

If by now, you have not figured out what Rana’s or grandfather’s role is, then it is time to pick up the book.

Written in an uncomplicated style it makes for easy reading. The conversation between the animals and the agent is funny, keeping the mood light and easy. Dealing with such a serious and grave topic it is easy to get preachy and pedantic. But the author has taken care to maintain a light touch through the book, yet at the same time keeping in mind the serious nature of the subject. If you wish to know more about endangered animals then this is the book to read.

TIGER BY THE TAIL by Venita Coelho, Hachette, Rs. 350

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