Tiger Warrior: Fateh Singh Rathore of Ranthambore
Viking (Penguin Group) Rs 499, Pp 230
I knew Fateh Singh Rathore intimately, and yet, when I read through Soonoo Taraporewala’s Tiger Warrior, I found the book filled dozens of blanks about his life, things that he did, people he met, feelings he felt. With every page I turned, I found myself placing mental images like pieces on the complex jigsaw puzzle that was Fateh’s life. Much of what Soonoo penned was familiar to me, but, as anyone who knew Fateh will readily confirm, he had so many facets that it was virtually impossible for anyone to fully comprehend the man, his mission or his multifarious relationships.
That Soonoo was so persistent and was able to piece together with such determination the chronology of his life, from his birth in Chordiya, in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur district, to his untimely death at Maa Farms, Ranthambore, is a service not merely for his friends and family, but for all who might tomorrow be forced to fight against the odds for India’s wildlife.
We all know that Fateh was the product of a feudal background, but the trials, tribulations and exultations of his familial interactions that the author has meticulously listed complete the picture of a man who put tigers on the global map. This includes his early life, dominated by a grandfather (Laxman Singh Rathore) and uncles (who commanded both obedience and loyalty to the family name in a manner that city-bred people may not comprehend).
This is a book written from a position of quiet love. Love for the forest that Fateh protected with his life and that Soonoo herself so obviously loves, and love for the man. I was, of course, not one bit surprised to read that Soonoo also caught the rough (actually not that rough) side of Fateh’s tongue, for he reserved his anger and irritation only for those he hated or loved, preferring to ignore the in-betweens to the extent he could.
I can remember—how can I ever forget?—irritating him by asking time and again to identify a particular loud, fluty bird call which rang out at frequent intervals, until he snapped: ‘How many time do I have to tell you—it’s a GREY PARTRIDGE!’ The call of the grey partridge, or francolin, is still very dear to me, and I now have it on my mobile phone.
Fateh was like that. He said what he felt without