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Fascinated by the big cat

A civil servant and now the author of Scent of a Game, a book that focuses on poaching and the declining tiger population in India, Raghav Chandra talks about his connection with nature and future plans.

How did the transition happen – from civil servant to writer?

It wasn’t a transition as such, writing is an inherent skill.



The tiger story is very similar to the human one — of being restricted, yet being able to survive



Where did the topic of tigers come into play?

Between 2006 and 2009, there were a lot of tiger deaths. In fact, in and around 2006, when I worked in Madhya Pradesh, I observed that there was a tiger death reported in a wildlife sanctuary or a tiger reserve, every day. And if you recall, this was the time when the Sariska tiger reserve got highlighted because of a survey which reported that there were no tigers left there. The forest and wildlife authorities protested against this, saying that there were tigers still around. Following which a formal survey was carried out and it was established that there were indeed no tigers left. In Panna, Madhya Pradesh, a similar situation prevailed. Three years ago, there were 50 tigers and suddenly, around 2006-07, there were none. A national tiger conservation authority was set up and a CBI enquiry ordered.

The idea of this novel germinated at that time. I was looking for a story of how a human being could transcend a difficult patch, survive odds. I’ve merely used the tiger as a motif to define and describe this. The tiger story is very similar to the human one — of being restricted, yet being able to survive.

How did the journey of this book begin?

I wrote it in 2009-10 but for about two years it was under wraps. Then, in 2012, I relooked at it, afresh. And it helped me restructure it from a reader’s viewpoint. I gave it to Rupa and they liked the plot and pace. It took 10 months for the book to be published.

Tell us more about your fascination for tigers.

As an animal, it is magnificent. It’s the head of the animal kingdom and if you can protect it, as I have mentioned in the book, then you can protect all the smaller creatures. Its ideational, to be able to protect the tiger. It symbolises our respect for nature. I found that nature is something I can relate to, though it’s got nothing to do with my work.

Have you ever come across a tiger poaching incident?

Yes, during my formative years in the civil service, when I was a sub-divisional magistrate in 1985. I was informed that there was poaching in the subdivision. I took my forest officer along with me and we set up a trap. We were able to capture the man, who had shot a deer and a boar. We filed a case and he was arrested. However, I was promoted and transferred after a few months.

Which proved to be the most challenging part of the book?

The conclusion. That’s because there were so many stories that went into making the large canvas. If you pick any particular thread, like Sherry, the journalist’s life. That’s an entire story in itself, but it couldn’t be written about extensively. I was unsure about how to end it. I couldn’t make it a happy ending and so I ended it where I thought I should. There is more to the story but I feel you should leave something for the readers to ponder over.

Do you have a personal connection with any of the characters?

I do, to an extent. I can empathise with Ram, especially the predicaments he faces, which he is able to tide over; Ganga, because I’ve suffered the same fate as him in situations where your work isn’t rewarded; and Sherry, for her probing eye and being the obsessive person she is when it comes to her cause. There is a little bit of everyone in me.

All your characters have shades of grey. Was this intentional?

It was natural. Because in life I don’t think there is anything that is clear. There is a shade of grey in everything.

Did you expect the great reviews you received?

I thought readers would identify with the story. I am very happy with the response, but I was expecting it because there is a hidden love in everybody for nature, wildlife and the human predicament.

Tell us about your next book.

It’s not happening in the near future. I have a full-time job to which I am entirely committed. I’m not giving up on writing though. If there’s reader interest then I’ll definitely put another book together. I’m very happy that this is a hobby I can pursue even post-retirement.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 7:22:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fascinated-by-the-big-cat/article6057577.ece

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