Wild Man

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BILLY’ ARJAN Singh’s health is failing, his back’s bent, supported by the orthopaedic belt he is loath to wear, his knees trouble him and a recent operation has rendered him weak, and not a little grumpy. Billy is a pioneer conservationist, and besides being at the forefront of many battles, including the ban on hunting, he is best known for the controversial captive breeding of Tara, the tigress, and releasing her in the wild.

‘Billy’ Arjan Singh
‘Billy’ Arjan Singh
Age: 91
Profession: Conservationist
Private joke: Persuading friends to help him customise his jeep horn to sound like the rutting call of the barasingha deer
Photo: Vijay Pandey

Now, it seems, he has given up. One’s heart sinks when he says a definitive no to going into the forest. But his actions aren’t that of a weak old man. Suddenly, he’s in a vehicle hurrying the entourage left far behind into the wilds of Dudhwa, a park that owes its very existence to Billy. He points out a raptor, deciphers leopard pugmarks, strains to hear the call of the muntjac; and when a truck hurtles down the road, honking incessantly, it is Billy’s roar that rises above it, “You b*&#%, stop… This is the tiger’s forest…”

“I have too little time,” says Billy, listing the tasks at hand: The Soheli- Neora rivers must be desilted, the railway line and road cutting through Dudhwa needs to be addressed. “We must halt the destruction of forests, and have a dedicated wildlife service. We must save the tiger…”

Last seen Billy is pecking away at his ancient typewriter, making a case to the Prime Minister for professionalism in the forest services. Saving the tiger is the purpose, the elixir of his life. It’s his reason to be.

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