December 1957, traveling on canal road as good as a coal tar road we reached Jasbir nagar at dusk. There was no electricity in those days just lanterns so for a boy of my age away from home for the first time entire scene was gloomy. This was the first time I saw him. It was Christmas time so we were offered home made cake and a little later we pushed off to Dudhwa as permit holders for a fortnights big game hunt.
Later on once in a while I saw him at my Uncle Late Naresh Singhs house as and when he visited lucknow, both were very fond of each other having lot of things in common , bravery , perfect knowledge of wild life , straightforward and blunt. Their conversation was a treat for us , now I realize what kind of relationship friends used to have in those good old days. Late uncle went around in the jungle on foot with a camera and late billy uncle also had the habit of roaming in forest all alone , both used to tell each other that you are doing wrong and someday Tiger is going to kill you! Both lived their full life and did a lot for the cause of wild life.
When I grew up I took up the passion of small and big game shikar , being aware of late billy uncles disliking of shooting animals I avoided going anywhere near him or he would have asked me to give up.
1970 we had a permit for Sathiana block and tiger was allowed along with other animals and birds. This was the time when late billy uncle used to pursue a huge male tiger, going near him as long he permitted and used to take photographs. This tiger was a resident between Tiger Haven and sathiana which we learnt from late billy uncle.Despite being great friend of my uncles late billy uncle gave a clear cut warning that in case this tiger was shot then he will break the ties of friendship. As luck would have it neither we made any attempt to locate the tiger nor it was seen anywhere.
June 1984 I was at dudhwa with a cousin and a friend. One
morning while going on a elephant near soheli we saw a tigress with a injured paw
, reaching the road we got down from the elephant and moved towards the car
which was parked there . Before we could move further we saw late billy uncle
coming on foot from dudhwa FRH. After wishing him we told him about the injured
tigress which made him very worried . He asked me if I could take him to spot ,
I could not say no or we could have been branded as cowards. Next one hour was of
full of hair raising experience, he in the lead followed by us through tall
elephant grass and a dark animal trail. We reached the spot and he examined the
pug marks. He made it a point that she has to be searched out or she will die
of hunger. He asked me if I could come in the afternoon on a elephant and help
search, I was also asked to find out from the then Director Dr R L Singh if he
was willing to join us which he did. We spent the entire evening in the area
but could not locate her. Next morning I returned to lucknow.Late billy uncle
continued his search morning evening on foot all alone and finally while
looking into the darkness of a cave one day tigress charged at him and he had
to retreat. Finally one October morning I got a call from him to join him at lucknow zoo where she was
brought after having been trapped. She was named ‘soheli’and she lived at the
zoo for a year.
|photo courtesy: nowpublic.net|
By this time I had totally given up shooting so there was no hesitation in meeting him as and when he came to lucknow.Meeting him regularly , talking on phone every second day and a regular correspondence on wild life issues increased my inclination towards wild life conservation with total thrust on dudhwa and tiger.I did learn a lot from him and a fat file of his articles and correspondence is my prized possession .
My self and Shri G C Mishra were his permanent guests at ‘ Tiger Haven’ , we have wonderful memories of chatting with him near the fire place , hearing old stories of shikar, good and the bad forest officers .He had a very good sense of humor contrary to his reputation of not very mixing type.
His work and his writings if taken seriously even today can be the backbone for saving ‘dudhwa’ and its remaining tiger, this is my challenge !
Kaushlendra Singh(Wildlife Conservationist)
Member Tiger Haven Society
Founder Trustee Tiger & Terrain