Publisher: Rupa/Red Turtle Publications
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In a simplistic story written about complex issues, Tigers of Taboo Valley by Ranjit Lal is simply one of his finest. A prolific writer, Lal has written for both adults and children in the past, interweaving issues of environmental concern in mundane everyday activities.
Tigers of Taboo Valley is a story about Rana Shaan-Bahadur, the alpha-male tiger of Sher-Kila National Park. With his masculine features and looks that kill, Rana Shaan-Bahadur is used to a constant media frenzy around him and this attention has made him immune to the feelings of others.
Father to four adorable cubs, Hasti, Masti, Phasti and Zafraan, Shaan-Bahadur is more concerned with wildlife photographers trailing him than with his children, who he’s abandoned. When his cubs’ mother, the beauteous Raat-ki-Rani falls to a poachers bullets, Shaan-Bahadur suddenly finds himself a single parent, a matter of great shame for a male tiger. To escape the taunts of the other tigers, he moves to the dreaded Taboo Valley, an abandoned area with a dark history inside the national park to raise his juvenile cubs in peace. Little does he know that Khoon-Pyaasa, the poacher who was once spited by Shaan-Bahadur sees this as the quintessential time to seek revenge. Though his reasons are petty, the urgency for him to avenge his honor is immediate and he soon starts to trail the family, hoping for a moment of weakness during which he can strike. Add to that the fact that an alpha male is never safe! In this time of apparent weakness, Shaan-Bahadur is especially vulnerable and his rivals for the position of alpha male are on the prowl, determined to kill the magnificent Shaan-Bahadur, and overtake him in position and in life. The deadliest of them all, ASKAA, i.e. the Al-Seekh Kabab Atankvad Andolan is an underground group of porcupine terrorists who have sworn to exterminate all tigers and will stop at nothing till they get their quills into Shaan-Bahadur and his innocent cubs. What follows is a battle till death which teaches in its wake integral lessons of life to all of Shaan-Bahadur’s cubs but more importantly, it teaches Shaan-Bahadur the meaning of love and the importance of family.
Ranjit Lal delivers social commentary with flawless ease in Tigers of Taboo Valley, integrating in the simple plot elements of public debate such as wildlife politics, fearsome terrorist tactics, honor killings, single parent tiger families and more. Though targeted toward children, Tigers of Taboo Valley is a light read which can be enjoyed by any age group.
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