Steed of the Jungle God
Raza H.Tehsin with Arefa Tehsin
-Review by Dr.Susan Sharma
In India, there is still a sizable section of our population who co-exist with the wildlife around them; many even with large animals like elephants, bison, leopards and tiger. While the call of the modern world has erased many skills they had living in harmony with nature around them, a generation still lives which is a veritable store house of knowledge about animal behaviours and tribal customs. The book I am reviewing here is written by a highly qualified and rational veteran of those times.
Raza H. Tehsin has served in an honorary capacity as the Wildlife Warden of Udaipur for 33 years. He has penned many books and research articles. But “Steed of the Jungle God” stands apart as a beacon to conservationists around the world.
While Raza’s early hunting expeditions with his father and brother taught him animal behaviour, the insights gained as he matured transformed him into a hands on conservationist and rationalist in later years.
The stories Raza relates are penned by his writer daughter Arefa Tehsin and the 142 page volume reads like a Ruskin Bond offering – its simple, visual story telling bringing the Aravali jungles alive before the reader. The 20 different stories bound together organically -almost cinematically- giving the reader a peep into the times
“when tigers and panthers roamed the hills and valleys of Udaipur, Rajasthan”
“When River otters decamped with fish catches of fishermaen”
“When the great horned owll, with its amazing mimicry skills, fooled many people to believe in ghosts”.
Raza’s acknowledgement of tribal knowledge shines through in many tales. I quote from page 75 “I was amazed to see Bhagga’s jungle knowledge. I purposely asked him on several occasions about different pugmarks that we stumbled upon and without a moment’s hesitation he identified them correctly. Not only this, but he also guessed most accurately as to how old the pugmark was – whether of the same morning, the night before or older than that, in which direction the animal had gone and if it had stayed at a particular place for some time. I found a wet stone on the hard ground and asked Bagga about it. He lifted it, sniffed it and informed that recently a hyena had urinated there. After going a few yards, we came across fresh pugmarks of a hyena.”
In tale no.16, read the heart-rending story of the grown-up tiger cub who lives for his mother.
In tale no. 18, the last episode recounts the successful rescue of a panther and a jackal by the forest department from a well where they had fallen. The jackal chose to ride on the panther to escape drowning!
Tale no.20 is titled “Steed of the Jungle God” -Devta Ka Ghoda-by the authors. The title refers to a Giant of a Man who lived and died in the jungle as a “wolf -boy”.
Raza H.Tehsin richly deserves that title, I thought.
Buy this book at Rs 575/- from National Book Trust, India. The print is excellent, the size reader friendly. One must read the book from beginning to end-though there are 20 different tales, they are intertwined and grow on each other. The tales are also superbly illustrated.
Steed of the Jungle God is the story of the making of a rational wildlife conservationist who is credited with the initiation of wildlife conservation movement in Southern Rajasthan. Persistent lobbying by Raza succeeded in getting three wildlife sanctuaries notified in Udaipur.