Thursday, September 27, 2012


Ox-strong, with an uneasy machismo that sits on the shoulders like a tenacious bull-rider that buck as he might, he can’t shrug off, and bristling with an insecure aggression that drags our hero to his tragi-comic fate – now that’s a Hemmingway hero, if ever there was one. But the Hemmingway hero is not a man who lives in the pages of a book alone, but walks the dark recesses of every man’s mind. But in some men, this part heroic, part demonic beast refuses to dwell only in the unlit alleys of the soul and breaks into the light, wresting control of our lives, our thoughts and are actions… that’s when you get to be Charlie Bronson – a man deemed so dangerous that he has been confined to a solitary cell for most part of the last three decades. Poor Charlie, within the crowded confines of modern civil society, is like the proverbial bull in a china store, who can’t walk two steps without breaking something – a rule here, a safe there, and a face every now and then.

But to prison with the bruisin’ Bronson, for that’s where half of him believes he belongs, and since it’s evidently his stronger half, who are you and I to argue with that. But prison is the subject of all I have to say this week, for while it was born as a system designed to break the spirit of the hardest nuts society could cough up, it seems to have the exact opposite effect on a chosen few.

As my study of the subject begins to gather momentum, I realise that like those two other great cradles of super human strength – the legendary Naval base at Coronado, play ground for the elite special operations unit of the world’s greatest army - the Navy Seals, and then there’s that temple in the forest on Mount Shao, where fly super monks in saffron robes – prisons too, across time have inspired men to acquire the strength of gods.

Long long ago, in that great tale spun by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables, the protagonist, Jean Valjean is recognised for his great strength that the hard prison life bestowed on his limbs. In fact strength, of both body and spirit, runs like a river, all along the length of that great story.

Two hundred years later, during World War I, a Russian soldier is captured by the Austrians while trying to escape. His progress through the snow was slowed down by the weight of his injured horse on his back… he didn’t want to leave the bleeding beast behind. But what good is astrong will against stronger chains and so he remained shackled to the wall of an Austrian prison for days weeks and months.

Zass had been a circus strongman and so, was no weakling when captured but in prison his strength exploded beyond the imagination of his captors. He built his strength while in chains in his cell, by pitting his muscles and his mind against all that bound him. His solitude gave him the kind of focus that hermits perhaps sought on mountain tops and forests, and like the holy sutras say, wherever the mind goes, and truly goes, the body surely follows. Egged on by his will, Zass’ by-now-mighty arms snapped their shackles, bent the bars of his cell and helped climb over what the Austrians thought was an unscalable wall, to freedom and a future as an invincible strongman.

Body weight strength and conditioning guru Paul ‘Coach’ Wade found his way into prison for possessing drugs. There, he met a 70 year old inmate who possessed astonishing strength for a man of any age who took him under his wing and taught him all he knew. In his book, Convict Conditioning, Paul mentions that fear and physical insecurity pushed him to train hard with this septuagenarian master. Prisons all over the world are hard cold places where the days are long and lonely and the nights intimidating and endless. Inmates usually crumble and breakdown because of the constant exploitative bullying by prison gangs and the guards or they descend into a cesspool of violence and depravity in their efforts to belong and be accepted.

But a few treat their years of forced incarceration as monks in a monastery might treat their time in solitude – as a time to reflect and focus…

Amongst those few are Alexander Zass and Paul Wade who meditated on their physical self with the laser sharp focus that solitude confers on those that embrace it. And those who reflected on their thoughts during their internment found that their imagination had grown new wings, that helped them fly further than the distractions of freedom had ever let them.

Marco Polo’s traveller’s tales, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Martin Luther’s German translation of the New Testament and Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World were all penned in the monastic environs of a prison chamber.

And how dare I forget, the Marquis de Sade, Charlie Bronson’s on the edge, literary spirit brother, who wrote his most notorious works while shuttling for 30 years (much like Charlie) between prisons and lunatic asylums in the 18th century.

Speaking of Charlie Bronson, it is not enough to know that he is an intensely violent man who has little control over his impulses. His friends insist that he is a delightful chap who has the deepest sense of integrity who would never let his buddies down. And yet Charlie would be the first to confess that he is ashamed of himself for having let his family, especially his mother, down and for having broken the hearts all who wished good things for him on the outside. He always wanted to be good and walk the straight and narrow, but his demons were always too strong for him.

But let that not take away from the fact that Charlie did not let his incarceration drive him even further over the edge. All through his solitary confinement, Charlie found sanity in his workouts –workouts that have made him arguably one of the strongest and fittest people in Britain, while pushing sixty. He holds multiple nationally recognised push-up records and is strong enough to hurl washing machines and knock half a dozen baton wielding guards out before being overpowered.

The point of all my rambling is that sustained solitude, voluntary or not, just like what our parents insisted on while we were studying for exams in school, coupled with, and this is the more important bit, complete mind body focus, is a great recipe for achieving the greatest possible greatness that lies dormant in our cells. But beware, extreme solitude could make one socially dysfunctional, and what good is a gift that can’t be shared.

Secondly, people like Zass, Wade and Charlie Bronson prove that modern gymnasiums and supplements are a rip-off. Not one of you reading this would have ever met a man half as strong as these titans and they built their Herculean strength without machines or free-weights, special diets and programmes or supplements. All you need to be fit and strong is the will to fight your weakness, a dash of creativity and common sense and the fortitude to stick with a plan, come rain or shine or the blues… so get on with it.

But before I go, I hear the sneaky question in your head. Prisons and monasteries have another thing in common, beside solitude – inmates in both institutions have to forego the pleasures of the second most important three letter word in the language. And haven’t we all heard of the accepted notions about the relationship between celibacy and athletic performance, intellectual expression and spiritual evolution?

How does that fit into the mix? Is that the secret missing ingredient or just an incidental accidental fact? Well, that’s a story for another week…


Thursday, September 20, 2012


Let me take you back in time, to the cobbled streets of an ancient Rome. Imagine the markets, busy and raucous, under sheets and sheds lining the paths, sprang shops that sell the season’s produce, all the way from Thrace to the Tiber, selling fruits and hay and pots of clay. Walk on past and there you’ll see a market square at the heart of which would a cool fountain be…

Common folk in sack-cloth and clogs, make way for a noble man’s horse. His silken robes and noble steed shine blinding white, against the brown and grays of the plebeians that walk amongst the hopeful, wagging strays. A slave, tall and burnt brown in the sun, holds an umbrella over his master’s head as he trots in time with the horse, down the road past marble platforms, where traders sell the soft est silks from the east, the finest pearls from the oceans south, and the prettiest slaves from lands beyond the Bosphorous. You follow them as hawkers call out to the ‘master’, for they’d only dare to sell him the very best, or so they claimed. The master rode on, gazing on all that pleased his eye but stopping not till he reached a cul de sac, where a crowd had gathered around a raised platform.

He looked up at the platform and there they stood, fifteen boys, and even some men. Fair and blonde, dark and brown, even black and a blue, with hair and beard grown long and thick, from all the conquered lands of Rome, had risen these men as hard as stone. They were survivors all, rebels and warriors who had lost battles and comrades, farmers and ranchers who had lost lands and hope and sailors who had lost their ships or their way, but they were all survivors still. The steel in their sinews clambered like vines on a tree, along their granite like forms as they stood on stage. But it was the steel in their souls that shone through their eyes that had helped them survive for as long as they had, through all that they had…

“80 denarii!”, screamed a voice “…for the light haired giant from Germania!” The auction had begun…

There were other men in silken whites that day, and they all bid for the ones they chose. Some got the ones that they wanted, the ones who they thought would buy them pride and riches, even greater riches, with their sweat, their blood, and then their lives, while others had to squabble for the ones that remained.

The sun was high in that ancient sky. Sweat poured down the brows in the square. The platform was empty, the Romans were thirsty, but it wasn’t water or wine that their parched souls were after… and so they followed the masters and their new buys, through the dusty streets and empty markets. As they walked, the train grew long, as more and more folks followed along. Not just men but women too, and their dirty dusty children, a motley crew. Then came centurions and legionnaires, in their reds and golds, and merchants and their wives on palanquins, sheltered from the sun in their satin folds.

They all headed for that shadow in that sky as it came closer, the shape grew bolder and they saw it then for what it was… Its tall arches declared that it was the giver of dreams – it was the arena where the Empire quenched it’s thirst for blood, it was the Coliseum - a portal to another world where they could live a second life, where there were battles, and sweat and tears, victory and defeat and there was blood and gore, and glory galore, and life and death, yes even death too… It was all theirs and yet not theirs to bear…

The crowd rushes in, and you follow in its wake, as the heart beats like a war drum, a tidal wave of anticipation sweeps your senses as the surging crowd behind you carries you in and deposits you on your seat… the noise, the din, the bloodlust reaches a crescendo as you look up at the sky and realise it isn’t the hot Roman sun blazing down on you but the white heat of floodlights under a once blue sky. You look around and realise it isn’t an ancient amphitheatre of mortar and stone but a stadium striped in blue and yellow and in the oval lay not grains of sand but grew blades of grass cropped short and close. And on them strode not the heavy feet of gladiators in armour, with trident and sword and mace and spear but the spiked boots of men who had traded their cricketing whites for coloured tights…. And it was a coliseum still!

The world T20 World Cup is here, and let Test cricket be the great battle it is for the purists of the game. Let it be the rite of passage that gives a player the membership card to the hall of everlasting fame. Honestly, half the world couldn’t care less, and let the other half call us vulgar plebeians for wanting to see gladiators go to battle, for rooting for raw emotions, for flying wickets and slashed sixes, instead of gently clapping for gentlemen being civil in their cover drives, but as far sporting spectacles go, this really is a no-contest.

And sport, televised professional sport, before anything else, has to be a spectacle. It has no right to play itself out to be a self indulgent draw. Even fift y overs cricket, from the 25th over till about the 44th is not designed to be a spectacle. The cerebral, tactical chess-with-a-willow genes of the game often allows cricket to become almost glacial in its approach. Sport isn’t allowed that.

Sport unfortunately is no substitute for war. If the Serbs and Croats could have settled their Balkan disputes over a Davis-Cup tie, then I too would have rooted for Test cricket to wear itself out over our border disputes with Pakistan. I would have held my breath as night-watchman Pragyan Ojha poked and prodded till end of the day’s play in the face of a marauding Umar Gul and wily Ajmal while the fate of our fishermen trapped in Pakistani jails hung in the balance. Alas, that is not to be… not yet anyway. So if sport is not to be war, then what is it to be? For those who play it, it is a career, a way of life, a ladder, and above all else, a canvas to paint, their souls with … But what of the spectators who make it all - the career, that life, that canvas possible? What is it to be for them?

Sport, at least the greatest sports, like soccer and boxing, have always been what the gladiatorial games were in Ancient Rome - a spectacle, a wonderland where there is glory and shame, where there are heroes, fools, even villains, and where there is victory and loss, and at least a hint of danger, of violence. It is meant to be an emotional roller-coaster where we can partake of the glory and disown the loss and the shame, as we bay for the blood of those who fell short of the crease, the finish line and our expectations, just like it was for the crowds thirsting for blood in the Coliseum all those eons ago.

And love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit that no version of cricket celebrates the sublimation of this primal bloodlust better than T20 cricket.

Imagine walking past a cricket field exhibiting a Test match with let’s say a group of Eskimos and Latvians, who do not understand the game and have never seen such a thing. They will stand for a while as they see the ball roll, ask a few polite questions and then walk away. Then they saunter up to a park where they are playing a 50 overs version of the game. Subject to the stage of the game, they might wait a while or even walk away without a passing glance. Then let them walk up to a T20 game. Watch them hover around the crowd for a while as they try to catch a glimpse and then feel the electricity of the game touch them - the frenzied running, the ball flying and a fielder flying higher still to catch it, the heat seeking missiles being flung from one end and then watch them duck as a resounding thwack of willow clobbering leather sends the white sphere sailing out of the ground… over and over again. That game would have sown the seeds of a day when a big burly caber tossing Latvian fast bowler would be seen bowling for the Pune Warriors, and defending champions Holland would be opening their defence at a T20 World Cup against a team from Greenland.

Test cricket is glorious, pure and the supreme test of skills in muscle and mind say the experts. Sure is.. but make football an eight hour affair, and boxing a fight to the death, and they too would become greater tests than they are today…

So celebrate not the length of a game but the depth of its fervor. And all hail T20 cricket! Real cricket! And what might one day become the only cricket…!


Thursday, September 13, 2012


London! What strange treasure will it throw up today, I wondered, as I drifted out of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square and sauntered off towards Charing Cross. A few bright lights, bistros and a Pret a Manger later, I came upon this oddity called Foyles – a massive white block book store sitting in the heart of what essentially seemed like a bright lights and shadows entertainment district. I had a while to while and so I entered the hallowed hall that led into this wondrous book-land.

New releases screamed out for attention as I stared at the glazy hard-bound editions and thought it prudent to wait for the much cheaper ‘India and Bangladesh only’ paperback versions. No sir, I was in search of rarer jewels, the kind of books that don’t find their way into Indian bookstores. No, no, no it’s not what you’re thinking, because what you’re thinking about abounds in our Midlands and Crosswords (pssst…you just have to know where to look and how to ask!) What I’m looking for are genres which don’t have takers back home and so publishers just don’t bother to ship them across – martial arts, please-ban-me-so-I-could-be-famous-rants, seditious lampoonery, underground cult classics and so on. And yes I know I could go browse on Amazon and pick up whichever book or review catches my fancy, but there’s something about walking into a bookstore, the tactile pleasures of running one’s fingers along a newly bound spine, the woody smell of crisp new paper waft ing about as eager thumbs ruffle the pages, and that unspoken unshared deep delight of suddenly coming across a book that seemed to have been written just for you sitting all alone in a corner, waiting for you to come along and pick it up.

It’s the same magical difference that separates bumping into your soul-mate at a rock-climbing meet as against meeting her/him on a grooms and brooms website. And so the adventure continued, as my index figure ran along plastic jacketed tomes in the art and architecture section and Gaudi’s gargoyles in stone, and on to autobiographies (not in the mood for pompous wind-baggy tales of self promotion today, I thought), before I moved into home country – travelogues, and a little more of Bill Bryson (and few things can brighten a gray rainy London afternoon more than good ol’ Bill). I had made it past Hitler, Gandhi, Napoleon and their horses and I could see Theroux and Younghusband winking at me from their racks when my finger got stuck on a little red and black book with a naked man on the spine. B-R-O-N-S-O-N it said, by Charles Bronson. Yeah, so what, I thought, and moved ahead but my index finger refused to budge. I stopped and commanded the impudent digit to withdraw and it came off like velcro. They must’ve removed an old price sticker and my finger found it. The book stumbled out and gave in to gravity. I picked it up from the carpet and who should I see staring at me from the cover but hard as nails Hardy – Tom Hardy! Looking beefier than he did as Bane, without a stitch on and with a bristly handlebar moustache that spanned the page and rested on a star that said “now a major motion picture…”, I wondered who this bloke might be who needed Tom Hardy to tell his story.

Leaving Bill and the other travel writers a little dumbfounded, Tom, this bloke Charlie Bronson and I shuffled off into the corner where the folks at Foyles had been so kind as to provide a settee where three hard men could relax and get acquainted. As I rifled through the book, I wondered if this book was about Charles Bronson, that macho Mongol in Hollywood who starred in The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty Dozen. Fortunately, it wasn’t anything as predictable as that. As the pages turned, a picture began to appear…

About 150 miles north from Foyles, stands a forbidding structure. There, where the cold biting north wind wears down both man and stone, this monument to misery stands tall and gaunt. In its stony folds it holds monsters in the skin of man – pedophiles and serial killers… one had punched a 10-month-old who choked on a broken tooth and died. Another had raped and murdered a pre-teen. There are cannibals, brain eaters, serial killers and other such depraved beasts walking in chains in that ‘Monster Mansion’ called Wakefield prison. If you made your way past these demons marked by the devil, and went into the furthest darkest corner of this dungeon, past the barbed and bladed wires, the thick concrete walls and row upon row of men in uniform, their cold stares and thick truncheons, and came upon a steel door with a tiny hatch, open it at your own peril, for beyond the door, in the clammy quiet of the prison walls, you can hear the tread of heavy feet dragging thick chains along the concrete floor.

Push the hatch open and wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. The shadows fade into the walls, empty and gray, and to the floor, more gray concrete and then you see it, in the center of the cell, a cage, just big enough for a large man to stand straight, lie down or walk a few paces. And then you see him, a dark naked silhouette, massive shoulders and chest, a thick bull-neck merging into a broad barn-door of a back you could break a good sized tree on, sweeping thighs that reminded one of the coiled springiness of a thoroughbred and ankles shackled in chains and clamps. The giant falls to his hands and starts doing push-ups, one…, two…, three…, thirteen…, he carries on quicker than you can count, like a giant piston pumping away. He must have done a hundred odd while you tried to keep up, and then he rises, bringing his face closer to the bars of his cage and it catches a solitary sun-beam as it squeezes through the skylight. His skin is pale, his pate bald. Beads of sweat sprout all over his skin, moistening the traces of dried blood that streak his head and neck… your eyes meet his wild eyes. There’s an uncontained fury in those eyes. His thick calloused hands grip the bar as he pulls himself closer to the bars… and you, as if he wants to get to you. He can’t, and in frustration he tries to shake and pull the bars apart. The cage and the chain rattle. The foundations and rivets driven into the concrete shake and shudder and you feel the floor beneath your feet quake as the man pulls at the bars with all his terrible might. Will the cage hold, you wonder… And if it doesn’t, will the steel door stand up to this beast’s bludgeoning? You don’t think it will, and nor does he and so he bashes his head against the bars like a battering ram. The skin splits open and blood gushes forth from wounds old and new. Slick with blood and gore, the bars begin to give. The beast bellows like a crazed behemoth, spewing blood, sweat and spit, and you recoil in horror and fear… and then you hear him roar, not in anger or pain but mirth, laughing at you, your tiny mousy heart and the fact that he scared the living daylights out of you. For a man doomed to solitary confinement for more than three decades, the bleeding noggin is a small price to pay for this priceless entertainment. Meet the real Charles Bronson – Britain’s most violent man.

Prisons, and especially solitary confinement breaks down the toughest of men. It’s a dangerous dog eat dog world. Violence, rape and substance abuse is rampant in all correctional facilities. But this politics of intimidation, this constant looking over one’s shoulder wears every one out. A decade in the slammer wastes the best of them.

But Charles Bronson is an oddity. He has grown stronger and tougher with each passing year in jail. On a frugal diet and with little equipment, he has developed phenomenal strength and endurance, the kind that would put world beating athletes to shame. He has set standards of fitness that have found their way into record books. He does not drink or do drugs and is a near vegetarian but when he loses it, a dozen hardened prison officers in riot gear and their dogs find it difficult to contain him.

Incidentally, when he did spend a little time, about two months, in the outside world, he got involved with bare knuckle fighting. He beat all comers – gypsies, boxers, giant guard dogs and the like. And that’s where he got his name. (Michael Gordon Peterson was the name he went by until he started fighting professionally. Th at’s where they gave him the name Charles Bronson, and the name stuck) But I digress. The question is how does a man not only survive three decades but thrive in an institution that was designed to break the body and the spirit of all who enter? The answer roams further and digs deeper than one could have imagined. It is an answer that has implications for our lives too. I would love to tell you more, but before that, I need to go to jail… no, not as a guest of the state, but merely to test out a few theories. So watch this space, for Charlie and I shall soon reveal all…


Thursday, September 6, 2012


I love tigers. I want them to survive, claw their way over the cliff, make lots of cute cubs, and walk forests without fear, the way evolution intended them to. I can sit and read all day about the tiger’s power and grace, and tales from the forest from foresters of yore. But, frankly, I’m sick of reading about politically motivated policy makers, publicity-mongering fame seekers and profit-hungry corporations pawning the cat’s future for their 15 minutes of fame.

Some like the social network fuelled campaign ‘roar for the tiger’ is just a useless waste of well meaning effort and some like the recent interim ban on tiger tourism is thoughtlessly elitist at best and potentially lethal to the tiger’s future. The tiger needs us to get involved with its life and see it through to safety, not leave it unprotected and vulnerable in isolation.

When I first read about the proposed ban, I personally felt violated. The forests are my forests too, aren’t they? My presence there can be regulated but can it, should it, ought it, be dismissed? A little more research revealed that the matter was still being debated and the apex court had only passed an interim judgement.

Though I’m sure the Honourable Supreme Court bench has the best interests of the tiger at heart, I would beg to differ from the court’s perspective on the matter and present my argument on the matter at hand.

The court’s current stand on the matter, that core zones in tiger sanctuaries should be off limits to tourists has been triggered by a public interest litigation filed by Prayatna, a Madhya Pradesh-based NGO. The man in the eye of this storm is Prayatna’s frontman, Ajay Dubey, a social activist who has previously campaigned against illegal mining and plastic waste. The jury is out on the intentions of the man – is he just another publicity- hungry activist, desperate to ignite a media circus that has effectively catapulted him and his NGO into national prominence? Or is he genuinely, even if misguidedly, trying to do all he can to ensure the tiger’s future?

Either way though, Ajay Dubey’s campaign will endanger the tiger’s future far more than a highway running through the heart of the park could have ever done, unless the apex court can be urged to drop this directive.

Tourists don’t kill tigers. Period! And nor are tigers poached during the hours when tourist jeeps are scurrying about the park with their gaggle of tourists

We might be an audio-visual eye-sore with our bright and shiny lounge-bar outfits and Ek Th a Tiger jokes, but tiger poachers we are not. In parks like Ranthambore and Kanha, there might be a case for regulating tourist inflow because some experts believe that tourist pressure might stress the great beasts. But having said that, one shouldn’t forget that in all parks, tourists are confined to a handful of trails running along the periphery of a tiger’s home range, which could be anything from 20 to about a 100 square kilometres. The tiger could easily disappear from plain view and into thick brush, and resurface in a clearing a kilometre away, far from the prying eyes of goggleeyed tourists and the whirring of their furiously fluttering shiny new SLRs. The tiger is seen only when it wants to be seen.

Pictures, photographs or words, nothing can quite capture the primal majesty of a wild tiger the way seeing one in the wild can. I remember once in Jim Corbett National Park, we had tracked this large male over rough ground for half-an-hour before we saw him break cover and bound across a clearing before disappearing into the brush. We had our cameras ready and trained on the spot but as the tiger emerged through the leaves and the mist, like a flame leaping through the forest, not a finger moved, not a breath escaped as steely muscles rippled under that striped coat and just as suddenly as it had appeared, the tiger vanished, leaving a trail of scorched mist, dust and dry leaves in its wake. The cacophony of alarm calls from the forest denizens had gone quiet. All we could hear were our breaths and that loud thumping in our chests. It was a sublime moment.

So why would Ajay Dubey want to take moments such as these away from us. On the face of it, Dubey’s petition seems to suggest that tourism makes the tiger vulnerable to poaching and therefore should be regulated or even restricted.

But even rudimentary investigations would reveal that poaching of tigers is usually done by disgruntled locals, and in secluded zones that are far removed from the prying eyes of us nosy tourists. So what’s Dubey aiming at?

In one of the interviews in the aftermath of the court’s ban, Dubey came down heavily on the resorts protesting the ban by saying that their business practices were exploitative. And here one’s got to agree… the man has a point. Tiger tourism is a ‘million dollar business’ but little from those millions ever reaches the local population or benefits the tiger. The state governments and the corporations grow fat on the tourist cream while the tiger and the local forest tribes squabble over their share of the forest. This impoverished state of neglect and conflict makes it easy for interest groups to make willing poachers out of regular villagers and setting of this cycle of destruction. And the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government and resort owners.

For what it’s worth, here’s my two bit for the Honourable Supreme Court’s kind perusal in the interests of securing the tiger’s future…

i) Bolster park security

India’s wildlife warriors at the frontline, the foresters and forest guards, armed with just a staff and an ancient rifle if they are lucky, who man our forests and are expected to protect our tigers from poachers equipped with sophisticated weaponry, are ageing. Their average age is steadily, creeping towards fift y. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many parks haven’t recruited a fresh pair of legs in more than a decade.

The court would do well to impress upon state governments the need to fill up all vacancies in the forest department. Just as important is the urgent need to equip these protectors of our tigers with state-of-the art weaponry, communication sets and nightvision tools. Without these two precautions, you could ban tourism all you want, but the undefended tigers are still going to disappear.

ii) Resorts and their responsibilities

Although they might not see it this way today, it is in the interests of a business to conserve and invest in the source of its revenues. Hotels and lodges and all businesses in general that depend on tiger tourism out to plough back a certain predetermined percentage of their profits back into conservation projects of their choice and local community development.

Secondly, at least 35-40 per cent of the workforce in these resorts and lodges should necessarily be drawn from local communities. That is the only way to engage those vulnerable individuals and groups who currently feel like they have been isolated and dispossessed by the various conservation measures in and around the park.

Only when the tiger is worth more alive than dead to the local communities would we be able to assure a modicum of security to the tiger and its future.

iii) Last but not the least, let tourists be…

It is an unfortunate fact of our times that nothing seems to have the right to exist for its own shake. Even tigers have to earn their keep by drawing in tourists who in turn become the dynamo of the local economy. Even a temporary ban on tourism would destroy the local economy. The poor would grow poorer and more desperate. The parks, now empty of tourists, would remain porous to trespassers and the temptation and the opportunities to kill a tiger would be greater than ever before.

Tourism is the ace in the tiger’s pack. It gives people with means a reason to sweat a thought, and who knows, may be even a little action for the sake of the tiger and the revenues it rings in.

Even more significant is the profound manner in which seeing a tiger in the wild can transform the psyche of a person. And any man, woman or child who has witnessed the formidable form of a tiger in the wild will return home a conservationist for life.

The tiger’s future hangs precariously in the balance and if ever there was a time to act, it is now. Ajay Dubey, through his misguided crusade, has shown us the ‘power of one’. It is time we believed in that power, and took a step to try and make a difference… to try and find a voice! Roar for the tiger now if you care… if you dare…!