Much has been written about India’s pioneer conservationist, man-eater killer and humanitarian Jim Corbett. Almost everyone has heard of him and about Corbett National Park. Indeed, Jim ruled the roost in the north and was widely known and respected. However, not many know that South India too had one such individual who was routinely called upon to rid valleys and villages of man eating tigers and panthers. The gentleman I am referring to is Kenneth Anderson.
Mr. Anderson came from a Scottish family that had settled in India six generations previously. He was as much a native of south India as anyone could expect. His fluency in Tamil, Kannada and Hindi and the utter ease with which he mingled with the native tribes in the south made him very popular. He has authored several books on the jungle, its inhabitants, man eaters and rouge elephants.
Like all hunters, he started out as a murderer, killing in the name of sport. However in time he recognized the folly of this pursuit and swapped the rifle for a camera.
My father is a keen reader of Kenneth Anderson’s works and I was fortunate enough to be introduced to his books at a very early age. I have read the entire collection several times over and every reading just makes me wonder about the life in the jungles long gone. The books would not be considered literary classics. But they are written with such a simplistic style and with such a sense of purpose that one cannot help but be drawn into the stories. His love for the jungles and the people of the land he had called home ever since he was born is evident and although his criticism of the Indian natives’ philosophy of blaming fate for their problems is a bit annoying, it just reveals his deep desire for them to get rid of age old superstitions.
Unfortunately Mr. Anderson died of cancer in 1974, leaving his last book unfinished. Not much is known about him now though. Its a classic case of Kenneth who? However I strongly recommend his books as his stories transport you to another place and another time, where you are the hunter in his machan above a bait, straining your eyes and ears and waiting and watching for that instant when the tiger roars.