Book Review | Lockdown Tiger: The Tiger, The Leopard And The Shade
Price : INR 275
The fifth of Anjana Basu’s series of Tiger and ‘Carpet Sahib’ series - which began with In the Shadow of the Leaves, went on to Leopard in the Laboratory, progressed to Eighteen Tides and a Tiger and then Hide and Seek Tiger - is about a tiger, who much like humans, is locked down, although ‘caged’ would be a more appropriate term to describe the poor creature’s predicament. Whether the author is projecting the situation of humans during the Covid-19 pandemic or just spinning a yarn about baddies in this book is moot.
Carpet Sahib – the ghost of the famous hunter turned conservationist – is at hand but only Manjul and her friend Rohan can see him and he speaks to them through telepathic communication. Anjana is a scholar who like the Bard, “finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones” although there are bad characters lurking throughout the tale.
As before, Anjana’s heroes are two spunky children and a Presence, though the story is complete in itself. Manjul is able to overcome her fears of darkness and tigers while Rohan spends his time trying to placate his mother (who is fanatical about his studies) and having adventures when adults aren’t looking. The ghostly presence is dedicated to saving tigers and damsels in distress. The adults for the most part are benevolent, they are concerned about dwindling forests, vanishing wildlife but not at all dismissive of adventurous children.
The use of scary places and ‘things that go bump in the night’ is one of the high points of the story. There is a derelict hunting lodge ‘Baghwa Kothi’ (inspired by the author’s visit to the Kanker Palace where she discovered a space called Baghwa Kholi created for captured tigers in distress), which is a hideout for the heroine and the site of several adventures. Eyes glow in the dark and what seem to be hunting trophies growl and snarl. There is a tag team of a tiger and a leopardwho come together for a cause under Carpet Sahib’s supervision.
You have to admire the grit Manjul and Rohan display – and their faith in the power of a Presence to control these big wild beasts and to walk into a chamber of horrors at his say-so! This part of the story, though, borders on the macabre. In this whodunit the police play a proactive role by wielding lathis and putting criminals (much like the poor tiger) behind bars. The adventure has an enchanting ending – there is a lockpicker who does his bit, Carpet Sahib and a tiger appear in Rohan’s garden.
What holds the series together? Its characters, it’s themes, the adventures of the children and Carpet Sahit, of course. The ‘Lockdown Tiger’ is a complete tale of a tiger in distress and three comrades who rally. There is unpredictability and narrow escapes, touches of humour and the supernatural.
The scenes of tranquil village life transport those of us who are actually familiar with the villages of Uttarakhand to an earlier age – there are DJs in villages now, buses and trekkers spewing smoke and houses and resorts have mushroomed where cows used to graze.
The poetic and descriptive Forewords by the author’s young nephews and nieces are refreshing and the story is definitely worth reading for adolescents and adults alike because it says a great deal about nature, human as well as flora and fauna and explores adult-adolescent relationships that the lockdowns imposed by the pandemic eroded to a great extent – not to mention the fact that it delves into Carpet Sahib’s adventures in the flesh as well.
(Vijayluxmi Bose is a Delhi-based communication specialist and has recently published a book on Health, Education and Livelihoods in Talla Ramgarh, Uttarakhand.)