"Tiger Warrior, Fateh Singh Rathore of Ranthambore"
- Author, Joanna van Gruisen, reviwed by Biblio (a book review magazine)
Mr Ranthambhore had not been born into a traditional Rajput family, the man known as Mr Ranthambhore, might have found fame and celebrity status as an actor. Drama was his first passion and if his dedication, charm and enthusiasm had been directed towards the stage instead of towards tigers and the forest, there is high likelihood that he would have become a household name. How much harder to become so in the less attention grabbing arena of conservation! It is a measure of the greatness of the man that Fateh Singh Rathore came close tothis, even as he laboured in the more isolated field of preserving India's wildlife heritage. His friends, fans and following span the world and it is fitting that one who fits all three categories, Soonoo Taraporewala, took on the task of penning his life – Tiger Warrior, Fateh Singh Rathore of Ranthambhore is the apt and informative title.
Born in the late 1930s (even he was uncertain of the date) and departing in March 2011, FS spanned a fast-changing world. His character was such that he was able to move with it and indeed there is no doubt that his approach and ideas in the latter years were fresher and more modern than many of his far younger colleagues in the Forest Department. Even in his 60s and 70s, he could be, and was, an entertaining companion and motivating force for youngsters freshly moving into the conservation world – a rare and refreshing gust of clear air in a bureaucracy often close and oppressive.
Commitment and integrity are timeless and add to this, perseverance and a deep devotion to the tiger and other forest denizens under his care, along with an immense understanding of the ways of the wild and you have a recipe for the kind of Forest Officer that can truly make a difference to the health and diversity of India's wild environment. And the proof of this is our Ranthambhore legacy – that fabulously beautiful and rich area of Rajasthan, that tens of thousands visit each year in the hopes of a glimpse of India's magnificent national animal, the tiger. Rajiv Gandhi's nickname for FS, "Mr Ranthambhore" is appropriate in so many ways.
Tiger Warrior documents these, describing how the park came into being and documenting some of its ups and downs in fortune and how intertwined its fortunes were to FS's life and work – and vice versa. Such documentation cannot fail to highlight the often highly personal motivations of our forest bureaucracy (I doubt this is unique to the Ministry of Environment & Forests !) and how this can disastrously unctuate the fortunes of our wilderness areas, almost all of which come under the control of this one Government department.