The idea of the book was born out of a love for Ranthambore, an extraordinary wilderness, and for the tiger that rules it.
Spread across 164 pages of a mega-sized coffee-table book are photographs from the personal archives of Anjali and Jaisal Singh, who run a chain of luxury hotels, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter. The three have been travelling to, and photographing tigers at, Ranthambore, in south-eastern Rajasthan, for many years now.
Ranthambore—The Tiger’s Realm: By Anjali and Jaisal Singh, and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Sujan Art, 164 pages, Rs 4,800.
The medieval ruins of Ranthambore, some of which date back to the 14th century, provide a picturesque backdrop for the big cats. The park stretches over 1,334 sq. km and, with the Aravalli hills forming a natural citadel around it, Ranthambore is said to be the finest place in the world to observe and photograph the magnificent big cats in their natural habitat.
Jaisal’s association with Ranthambore started when he was a child and accompanied his uncle Valmik Thapar, a tiger conservationist, on safaris. Vadra’s relationship with the tigers goes back many years as well.
In her essay in the book, titled My Family and Other Animals, Vadra says she first went there as a 13-year-old. “I think it was my father’s love for nature that spirited itself into my being. I take photographs because he taught me to; no other reason at all really,” she writes. The book is dedicated to her late father, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The three friends decided to put their archives together in the form of a book in April. The photographs are on a par with some of the best wildlife photography that one has seen, but what is unique are the detailed narratives they come with. Each tiger is named; and its relationship with the others in the pages before and after detailed. Personal essays, anecdotes and photographs of the three with their families on safari jaunts make up a significant portion of the book. Vadra describes waiting to see the tigers mate—a rare sight—and being “cooked” in the jeep for 4 hours at 45 degrees Celsius. They had another 3 hours to go.
Ranthambore: The Tiger’s Realm is Vadra and Anjali’s first book, while Jaisal authored a book, Polo in India, published by Roli Books, New Delhi, and New Holland, London, in 2007.
The pictures do not carry individual credits. Jaisal explains it was because they wanted the pictures to be appreciated for themselves, not for who took them.
The aim, ultimately, is to inspire people to appreciate, respect and preserve India’s diverse natural heritage. “We have hundreds of beautiful wildlife sanctuaries in India, with a huge diversity of wildlife, which are second to none in the world. They must be protected,” says Jaisal.
Ranthambore: The Tiger’s Realm will be available in select book stores and in Good Earth boutiques across the country from 1 August.
Compiled by Anindita Ghose