As a fine-art photographer, I had never intended doing this book. All I had wanted to do was to create fine art prints for sale. But all that changed one day.
I distinctively remember waiting at Rajbagh lake hoping to sight the tigress called Arrowhead when I got news that a young cub was being sighted at a different part of the forest. Not getting much action at Rajbagh Lake, I asked my safari driver to take me to the sighting. And when I reached the area the cub had been sighted, I saw the sight that changed my life forever. There was this beautiful tiger, he was about six to eight months old and had the most beautiful, blue eyes. I just couldn’t take my eyes off him. The moment he saw us, he hid behind his mother. He would pop his head out to check us out and hide again. This went on for quite some time and eventually we had to leave the park. But watching the bond this young tiger had with his mother instantly humanised him in my mind.
I returned to Delhi but could not stop thinking about this beautiful young tiger. When I returned I obviously started spending more time tracking and photographing him. I now knew I had to do a book. I knew I had to share my experiences with others. I wanted others to experience what I experience and, more importantly, I wanted others to see Hamir, a truly wild tiger. With that clarity of purpose, I started spending as much time as I could with this tiger, observing him, photographing him, just being around him. Once I had a dry spell for 13 straight days, no sight of Hamir but that did not dissuade me. I was obsessed.
Cutting the story short, circumstances led this tiger to move to the periphery of the forest, where he came into conflict with humans. Until now he had attacked safari vehicles, including mine, but that was about it. It was when he started killing humans that things got ugly. After he killed the third human, the forest department decided to classify him as a man-eater and put him in an enclosure. While that saddened me, I believe it was a good decision because, after spending a great deal of time with Hamir, I had learned something of his psyche and knew he would not have stopped his killing spree.
Thanks to the forest department, Ranthambore now has over 70 tigers. That’s a huge success by any standard. But now comes a challenge which is bigger. How do you increase the forest cover to accommodate the increasing tiger population? How do you secure tiger corridors so tigers can move freely between different forests? Hamir will never be a free tiger again, but we can only hope a solution to these problems is found one day to ensure that both humans and tigers coexist peacefully.
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