Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Did Tiger Take the Rain?

I was surprised and happy to get an email from Dr Charles Norris Brown, an adjunct faculty from the University of Vermont. I had been leading the Year of the Tiger campaign in WWF before leaving the organisation to join SNV Netherlands Development Organisation. He wanted to write a book about conservation and tigers.

I connected him with WWF Nepal’s communication team and went with him to hear his plans at WWF Nepal office. His plans were just plans at that time. The communication team assured him of the support for his book – but it was not possible to fund his venture.

So, Charles and I, with support of my friend Shree Narayan Chaudhary went on a whirlwind trip of western Nepal. We were lucky to find support from many other friends in the field –Nandalal Rana and Bhaktaraj Rana among others.

We visited villages in Kailali, Kanchanpur and Dang collecting stories about tigers and conservation from Tharu elders. Charles had been clicking pictures and drawing sketches of little children while jotting down the stories in his notebook – told in Tharu language, translated in English by me.

Charles, on his return to the US, spent a sizable amount of his time writing a children’s storybook based on the stories collected from the western Nepal.

He again returned to Nepal the following year to meet with the communities once again and show them the draft of the book.

After several revisions, the book ‘Did Tiger Take the Rain?’ has come out in its present form. The book is being released this October by Green Writers Press.

Cover of the book 'Did Tiger Take the Rain? Used with permission.

In his website, Charles writes:

[…] But it is not the fate of the tiger itself that raises concern. Like the ubiquitous canary in the mine, what happens to the tiger is intimately connected with what happens to the habitat in which it lives, and the habitat in which the tiger lives is, in its turn, finely connected with the sustainability of the human biosphere. As the children in the book note: we all breathe the same air.
The problem addressed by the book is that a dry and hot climate could be the result of the cutting of the forests which upsets the naturally occurring precipitation cycles. The solution: to stop cutting the forests or at least be certain that new forests are allowed to thrive. The challenge is to produce a children’s book that shows both determination in the face of obstacles as well as the hope that efforts will bear fruit in a practical way. The strategy in this book is to share a story around raising a question, then actively seeking an answer and finding a way to resolve the problem through action. The book aims to develop a story that will help children from different cultures share a means to become empowered to take action that will hopefully make the world a better place. […]

Charles, an anthropologist by profession, was an artist from young age. He earned his PhD from Lund University in Sweden in Sociology and Social Anthropology. His post-doctoral work took him from India, to Borneo, to Appalachia, and to Canada where his focus was (and still is) on people of the forests and on their place in the health of the ecosystem.

He says:

[…] The message of conservation needs to focus among communities – the people who live near the forests (and its animals such as the tiger) as well as those far away. All of us share this world with the tiger – and not only the tiger. We share this world with all living things. We breathe the same air. We feel the same wind. How could I combine my approach to anthropology with my art to create messages for children? […]

Thus, the book ‘Did Tiger Take the Rain?’ was born.

Read an excerpt of the book from Amazon.

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