Wild Things

My introduction to the wild life began somewhere during my adolescence when I found a second hand copy of `Nine Man-Eaters and one Rogue (1954) by Kenneth Anderson. Big cats with glowing eyes stalked my dreams as I hunted down the Man-Eater of Jowlagiri and the Spotted Devil of Gumlapur in a local library. Already a big time Jim Corbett fan, I now devoured every word Anderson wrote. The legendary hunter’s tales were far removed from the sedate Cantonment of my childhood where I could only brandish a catapult threateningly at marauding monkeys in my garden.

When I finally tracked him down, the trail led to my own backyard. Kenneth Anderson (1910-1974) was a Bangalorean and an Anglo-Indian of Scottish descent whose family had settled in India for over six generations. His father, Douglas Stuart Anderson, a military man, sent his son to Bishop Cotton’s Boys’ School and St. Joseph’s College in urban Bangalore, taught him how to shoot at age seven and inculcated in him a love for the outdoors. And though Kenneth Anderson went on to work at the British Aircraft Factory (later HAL), he was essentially a big game hunter and reputed man-animal conflict specialist who authored over 8 books and many stories about his adventures. Some of these were translated by the prominent Kannada writer KP Poornachandra Tejaswi as ‘Kadina Kathegalu’. Photos often show the charismatic wildlife expert with his dog Nipper, a gun, pipe and hat set at a jaunty angle on his head.

His books took me through many jungles closer to home including the Devarayanadurga State Reserve Forest near Tumkur. They also introduced me to the Killer of Jalahalli, a stray leopard from Magadi who brazenly stole a goat (and several other village animals) belonging to the local Daffedar (Sergeant). Anderson says Jalahalli in 1938 was an ‘unimportant hamlet, perhaps boasting 150 houses, some of which were made of brick and others of thatch.’ Around it were dense thickets. Everyone who was anyone in the area joined the hunt. Hughey Plunkett who lived nearby with his mother lost his arm. He died of shock and gangrene at Bowring Hospital a few days later. Local villagers Kalaiah and Papaiah too attacked and were mauled by the big cat. Lloydsworth, a shikari who worked at the Tobacco Factory, Beck, another hunter and thirty police personnel in an armoured van from Bangalore also joined the fray. Finally, Anderson, his plucky wife Blossom and his friend Eric Newcombe managed to bring the leopard’s shenanigans to an end.

Anderson

Book covers picture courtesy: Flipkart: Rupa Publications Pvt Ltd.

Stories about Anderson kept pace with the ones he wrote. Those who knew the family or were close to him had tales to tell of his home in Whitefield that also housed pet jackals, bandicoots, snakes and kites. Janaki Lenin records a gift of his pet python to friend Romulus Whitaker for his Snake Park in Guindy; Whitaker took the snake by train to Madras packed in a large basket marked `Vegetables’. His house on Kasturba Road (next to the Government Museum, now a Prestige Building) too, was a veritable mini-forest with an ice-cream and beer loving pet bear, a hyena, monkey and chital all living together in perfect harmony. Anderson lived in the house and rented part of it out to tenants, one of whom was Vikram Nanjappa’s mother-in-law, Alicia Briggs. He says the house was Sir Mark Cubbon’s guest house and gifted to Kenneth Anderson’s parents by Sir Mark Cubbon himself.

Kenneth Anderson’s second son, Donald Anderson, walked beside his father and in his footsteps through many a forest in South India. His rugged Hollywood movie star good looks found him playing Stewart Granger’s double, fending off Rani the Tiger, in the Hollywood film, `Harry Black and the Tiger’. A resident of Serpentine Street, Richmond Town in his later years, he was himself a hunter-wildlife expert and a strong supporter of the Kenneth Anderson Nature Society that works to protect wildlife in the Melagiri region, Tamil Nadu.

DSC_0066.NEF (1)

Picture Courtesy: Nirlek Dhulla

While Kenneth Anderson was unfortunately never accorded the iconic status that Jim Corbett received nationwide, the multi-lingual (Tamil, English and Kannada) Anderson holds his own place in vintage shikar literature. His writing is humorous and compassionate with a deep respect for his four-legged adversaries, often attributing the displacement of wildlife and consequent changes in animal behaviour to man’s interference with nature. “The Man-Eating Tiger is an abnormality, for under normal circumstances, the King of the Indian Jungles is a gentleman and of noble nature”  he says on the first page of an introduction to Nine Man-Eaters and one Rogue (1954).

He was a dramatic raconteur and a keen observer whose books also reflected a close relationship with the people of the forest and indigenous practises.  He inspired my lifelong fascination with tree houses and `machans‘ and helped me realise that my early interactions with nature set the tone for a passionate desire to love and protect it as an adult. My own childhood was spent amongst  pets, in wild life sanctuaries, on the road, wading through rivers, climbing trees and hiking over mountains. Most of my free time today is thankfully, still spent out there. Anderson fans are familiar with a life lived out of a back-pack, under the stars. Their children know that milk doesn’t come from the local super market and vegetables are really grown in fields. They prefer travel to television and are most likely to protest in Cubbon Park against indiscriminate tree cutting, supporting green cover for Bangalore instead of `road widening’. Anderson’s book, the Black Panther of Shivanapalli (1959) was dedicated to “all those who love the still wild places of this earth…the rolling hills, the open skies… peace, stillness and solitude.” I would like to think this includes me.

He himself lies in solitude in the peaceful Indian Christian Cemetery on Hosur Road.I went there on a cold, overcast morning, a little before Don Anderson’s (80) funeral service at St.Marks Cathedral. The African Tulip trees here are mercifully untouched and the air that lingers is from a long gone Bangalore. Fittingly, Donald Anderson was to be buried in the same space as his father. And while I grieved for the loss of yet another old Bangalorean who left taking with him valuable memories and stories of days gone by, I imagined that the two of them were now wandering together over the happy hunting ground, creating new adventures in another time and place. RIP.

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FIND: Gate No 1, Indian Christian Cemetery, Opposite St.Patricks Catholic Cemetery Gate,  Hosur Road, Near Langford Town/Shanthinagar, Bangalore 560025. Timings: 7 am-6 pm.

SHOP: Kenneth Anderson Omnibus at Blossoms Book House on Church Street, Bangalore and Jungle Tales for Children online.

JOIN: Kenneth Anderson Nature Society.

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This story was originally published in the Bangalore Mirror, July 21st, 2014.

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11 comments

  1. Raghavendra Bangalore · · Reply

    Great Writeup..Thank You

  2. prasad · · Reply

    Aliye…you seem to amaze me with all the facts on Bangalore and its unknown connects for me… I just lived in Bangalore for 2 years way back in 95 and now !….I just found this page by chance and I realized that I edited the manpasand ad with u as the heroine !!!!

    1. Prasad, hi. I am a research based writer so digging up stuff to tell the story is part of the job.Don’t always know everything till I start the story :-).It’s a small world..welcome to the cloud.

  3. Everyone loves what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and
    reporting! Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

  4. You could definitely see your expertise in the work you write.
    The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe.

    Always follow your heart.

  5. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However
    I am going through problems with your RSS. I don’t understand
    why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS problems?
    Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

    1. Hey, whats the problem with the RSS.Let me know so we can handle it from the backend.

  6. Amazing blog. Thanks for bringing out info on Don Anderson. The eipitaph of KA is very nostalgic to his dedicated readers

  7. I love Anderson’s books. They kept me wide-eyed and nervous to the last page, and restless at night.

  8. Hi there…sad to know about Don’s demise. I read Kenneth Anderson books way back in 1990s and later on collected the omnibus. It was my desire to meet people close to KA. Not aware whether there is an association or organization working to keep Anderson ‘ s memories alive. Lately visited Blore and the santuaries in Karnataka and TN. The intrusion of vehicle, vehicles and invasive species leave the santuaries a shade of their former self.

    1. Hi Satish, there is a closed group on FB dedicated to him, and http://www.kans.org.in/ the society which is also mentioned in the blog (JOIN).Hope this is helpful

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