Living with Tigers by Valmik Thapar

Living with Tigers by Valmik Thapar. Book review by Ishan Shanavas

Book Notes – In this series, I share my insights, ideas, and reviews of my favourite books, whose topics are wide-ranging.

Rating – 8.5/10

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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“The tigers you will find in these pages of this book are the special ones, the ones who taught me everything I know about tigers, the ones who, by letting me into their lives, made my own life truly worth living”.

This quote best summarises Thapar’s book “Living with Tigers”. In it, he details his 40+ years at Ranthambore, watching the Reserve’s rise to fame. He spent much of his life with the park’s tigers, documenting the lives of over 200 individuals.

He dedicates a chapter to specific tigers, detailing their background and individual mannerisms. Those familiar with Valmik Thapar’s work will instantly recognise these names —Padmini, Genghis, Noon, Broken Tooth, Machli(the world’s most photographed tiger) and more. He dives into each one’s behaviour, sharing insights into their secretive lives.

There is something magical about the writings of naturalists. They take you on a journey through the wild; you experience the forest with its wildlife through them. Typically descriptive, they record tales and events of the jungle that you’d never hear elsewhere.

“The levels of joy we felt upon seeing a flash of stripes or the tip of a ear or the flicking of a tail could not be matched. Every little clue was vital and every little glimpse a stupendous surprise.”

If you want to read literature from the jungle, start with Living with Tigers. It is a book on extraordinary wonder. He writes from the heart, his love and admiration for the striped predator shining through every word. His descriptions and tales invoke the raw imagery of this magnificent cat, instilling a sense of amazement in every reader.

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The work of Valmik Thapar has been instrumental in shaping my passions. I spend hours flipping through his books, absorbed in his accounts and marvelling at his photographs. He, along with his guru Fateh Singh Rathore, was among the first to kindle my love for the tiger, and by extension, for the wild world.

I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in wildlife. It is a good segway into wildlife literature, combining elements of natural history, science, history and storytelling. It is suitable for young readers, ten years and older. I hope it has the same seeding effects on others as it did on me.

“The diet of the tiger always astounds me—from fish, frogs, turtles, grasshoppers to peacocks, partridges, storks, jungle cats, leopards, bears, hares, crocodiles, monitor lizards, pangolins, snakes, deer, and antelope, porcupines and ratels. Civets, mongooses, small elephants, rhinos, wild buffalo and gaur—the list is virtually endless.”

I’ll end this review with an anecdote and quote from the book – When examining a tranquilised tiger with Dr Raghu Chundawat, Thapar writes, “I touched the animal on the head and flanks and silently bowed my head to what still is the greatest inspiration of my life”.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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