Friday, December 17, 2004

Ever heard of Kenneth Anderson?

For all his invaluable contributions to literature, to local heritage and to wildlife conservation in this part of India, there's no more than a cursory mention of Kenneth Anderson in the literary circles.After several painstaking search-criterion-filtering and googling, I managed to retrieve some articles that write atleast a paragraph about him:

1)History Today: Jungle Book memories - wildlife preservation in India "Curiously, when wild animals existed in large numbers in India, some British hunters established reputations as conservationists. They included Kenneth Anderson, born near Hyderabad in 1910, the descendant of Scots who had lived in India for six generations. The jungle and its creatures were his lifelong obsession. As a big game hunter he became famous in south India as the saviour of villagers preyed upon by man-eating tigers and other beasts. Before his death from cancer in 1974, Anderson wrote books about his exploits which revealed his concern for the environment. In Man-eaters and Jungle Killers he wrote: 'I know localities where until 1930 the moaning sough of a tiger or the guttural sawing of the panther were normal sounds in the night - now the night passes without a sound'. And in The Tiger Roars, he noted that in the Mysore and Salem districts tigers and panthers have been almost wiped out by villagers who used a poison supplied to them almost free by the local government as an insecticide to protect their crops'."

2)"Jungle Tales"(The Hindu, Sunday, September 17, 2000)
"KENNETH ANDERSON (1910-1974) has often been described as South India's answer to Jim Corbett, though I would imagine that he himself - and his fans - would rather call Corbett the North- Indian equivalent of Kenneth Anderson ... Well, not quite perhaps, but near enough.

When I collected these two chunky volumes for review, I blanched. There was close to 1,500 pages of reading material here, and largely my own fault as I had never read any of Anderson's books before. Here, in volume 1, were Tales From the Indian Jungle; Man Eaters And Jungle Killers and The Call Of The Man Eater. Volume 2 contained The Black Panther of Sivanipalli; The Tiger Roars and Jungles Long Ago.

So, like a city slicker stepping into the forests for the first time, I started reading with some trepidation. And was hooked within minutes, and just three weeks later, was breathlessly done. One thing was apparent right from the start. There was a sense of technicolour 70mm. Hollywood melodrama in most of the hunting stories and encounters that Anderson described. And occasionally you found yourself stepping from incredulous belief to sceptical disbelief .... Could man-eating tigers and leopards, and rogue elephants, really be such evil geniuses as to plot and counter-plot their strategy and attacks in such a superhuman cunning manner, as Anderson has described? Well, maybe that privilege is not a prerogative of our species after all, but it does chill the marrow a bit, to realise that a man-eating tiger seems to know exactly what is going on in your head and is counter-plotting on that basis .... Also, some of the encounters and hunts seemed so implausible that, conversely, they must have been absolutely true - that old thing about truth being stranger than fiction. To pep them up further, Anderson probably just added piquancy to the way he unravelled his yarns.

And, by God, the man knows how to tell a story all right. He has an inherent sense of plot, the skill to clearly describe a locale (though maps would have been nice), and the knack of gradually building up the tension to give you a heart-thumping audio-visual feel of the situation, before exploding with a suitably blood- curdling roar. Occasionally, he does digress, and while this does slow down the pace a bit, some of the digressions are interesting in their own right. And then there are the hare-brained, dare- devil counter schemes that he comes up with in order to outwit his devilish, crafty quarry. Like waiting for a man-eater's return in its own den. Or setting up himself as bait. But, inspite of these seemingly gung-ho actions, there is always fear, and a great deal of it. Anderson knew full well the danger he was putting himself in and makes no effort to hide the fact that, often, he was petrified.

Not all the stories or anecdotes in these books are about hunting down man-eating tigers and panthers, or rogue elephants. There are accounts of ghooming (roaming) in the beautiful forests of South India, character sketches of various jungle denizens (wild boar beat all the big boys for courage), accounts of the wild animals he and his wife kept as pets (and a hyena was a sweetie), encounters with ghosts, and dabblings with the occult, and of course, his relationship with his "aborigine" friends and trackers.

Anderson, who was a Bangalore based planter, obviously loved the forests and their denizens and lamented the wholesale destruction of both. The accounts and anecdotes are infused with his own feelings and fears. What comes through clearly is his great love for the simple outdoor life and the spiritual upliftment it provided, the wonderful timelessness of India which again, he loved, his affection and respect for the "aborigines" of the forests, and his loathing of the bureaucracy, who often drove him up the wall. He comes across himself, as a colourful, rough-hewn personality, always ready to give as good as he got. "

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bharath,

Came across your blog while surfing for e-books. I'm Joshua, and with some friends, have started an online community dedicated to Anderson (kennethanderson@yahoogroups.com). We have about 140 members from across the world (mostly Indian), and the core group from Bangalore often head out into the jungles trying to retrace his steps and in a sense re-live his stories. Feel free to join up, or write to me at joshuamathew@lycos.com

Josh

Vikrant said...

Sometime back I found (or rather think I found) a place mentioned by Kenneth Anderson in his book 'Call of the Maneater'. It is near Anchetti and a detailed account is at the following link. http://www.geocities.com/vikrantpv/Kundukottai.doc
Thought it might interest you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bharath,

I came across your blog while googling Anderson. It's sad that there is little awareness and recognition about his work among the South Indian public. One of India's most famous national parks is named for Jim Corbett. Are South Indians so shabby in this regard that we can't name at least a smally sanctuary after him to honour his memory?

Sumanth