CHENNAI: There is no one genre to classify Raghav Chandra’s novel Scent of a Game. Perhaps tiger fiction, as classified by news anchor Gargi Rawat during the book’s Delhi launch, will be the most appropriate. For, it doesn’t stick to one subject, weaving a plot that meanders through a tale of human redemption, in the backdrop of tiger poaching.
A 1982 batch IAS officer from Madhya Pradesh, Chandra is at present additional secretary and financial adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India. Having penned books on management and public administration earlier, the novel that was launched recently is an offshoot of his long-time hobby — writing.
The frequent reports on tiger deaths in newspapers prompted him to create a story around tiger poaching. “It struck me that it was a larger issue than it seemed. In 2008, I started writing and completed the draft in 2010. It remained under wraps for a while due to work. In 2012, I took it out again and restructured it. The editor of Rupa Publications liked the plot and went ahead and published it,” he says.
Putting together history, real people (the tribe of Pardhis) and fictional account, Scent of a Game blurs the divides of genres and subjects, touching upon a number of national, international and local topics.
He says, “I have been close to nature on several assignments in places like Satna in Madhya Pradesh that is close to the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and in Korba which is near Achanakmar Tiger Reserve. Having been connected to subjects like land and forest, I have had first-hand experiences in the areas,” he adds.
With a generous sprinkling of history in the tome — from how the British exploited the wildlife of India to the Maharajas, who again ravaged it in the show of pomp — Chandra, however, admits that he wouldn’t claim that he has only stuck to facts.
“It is definitely not an easy read and is meant for serious readers. I have opened up a plethora of topics that they will want to explore,” says Chandra.
As regarding a topic like wildlife conservation, wouldn’t it have been easier to pen a non-fiction? Chandra says, “Apart from works like hunter-naturalist Jim Corbett’s Man-Eaters of Kumaon and Ruskin Bond’s work for the younger readers, there hasn’t been any serious fiction on conservation and tigers. Fiction gives you the flexibility and it is the writer who creates the boundaries. A fiction writer’s conscience is easier. It allows the ability to connect hitherto unconnected areas. Abstraction creates a larger picture than the realistic,” he says.
Braced for his next work with a few ideas in the offing, Chandra, a fan of Fredrick Forsyth, is open for a sequel. “There are many who have said that there should be a sequel. I had originally penned 1,90,000 words and had to cut it down to 1, 20,000 words. I still have 70,000 words to work on,” he says.
Published by Rupa, Scent of a Game is priced at `395.
When Burree Mada, the famous royal Bengal tigress goes missing from Kanha Tiger Reserve, it leaves a number of people in a tizzy. The forest officer in charge of the task of protecting tigers is persecuted and transferred. Meanwhile, Sherry, a fearless investigative journalist comes under fire, as she pursues the case of the missing tigress. Ram, an NRI who visits his dying father in Amarkantak encounters a number of bizarre accidents on his way from Silicon Valley. His deceased father leaves behind a tiger skin gifted to him by James Wilson, a hunter, to be lodged in the conservation museum. Ram is approached by Jugnu, a poacher, who convinces him to show him the tiger skin. Subsequently Ram is arrested for killing the missing tigress. When Ram is produced in court, he is asked to prove his story about his father leaving behind the skin. However, Ram is horrified to see that the label of the taxidermists, the famous Van Ingens, is missing and he realises that the skin has been replaced. He is sent to police custody. Will Ram prove his innocence? Are there more truths to be unravelled in his path of discovery?