Billy’ Arjan Singh, champion of India’s tigers, has often been compared to a big male tiger: feared by some, admired by many, forever unique. Duff Hart-Davis, the author of Honorary Tiger: The Life of Billy Arjan Singh (Roli; Rs 350) is a well-regarded English journalist and natural-historian, with many books and the encyclopaedia Fauna Britannica to his name. Billy was born into the princely Kapurthala clan in 1917. His story is peppered with the many anecdotes of a difficult but privileged life. He was an ardent hunter all through his youth but in the late 1950s experienced a crisis of conscience that led him to become a passionate preserver rather than destroyer of life. Hart-Davis writes with the lively insight that comes from close personal contact. He is informative without being intrusive, friendly without being gossipy and always highly readable. There are so few genuine personalities in India that Billy’s path through the jungles of reality becomes something much more heroic than just one man’s eccentric history. For all those who dream but do not act, there he stands at 87, still raging against the dragons of bureaucracy, chicanery and greed, still fighting the good fight. A warmly observed biography.

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