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THE LAST WHITE HUNTER: Reminiscences of a colonial shikari Hardcover – 1 Mar 2018
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As a complete ignoramus on the main subject of this book , I honestly did not know what to expect. But this book turned out to be a fascinating and compelling read. Firstly, this book paints a very compelling picture of Bangalore city before and after India gained independence from the British that too from the very unique perspective of an Anglo Indian.
Secondly this book is full of some very fascinating contrasts which are brought out in a vivid sometimes jarring manner. The most prominent of them is the sheer contrast of the times when Donald Anderson was born into a family of high status and no shortage of luxury before independence to the time he passed away a few years ago living his last days in penury banking purely on generosity of strangers for his next meal and the incredible amount of good will which his famous father had generated. The fearlessness and seeming invincibility of Donald Anderson in his younger days shines through in the painstakingly detailed and sometimes very amusing anecdotes on his hunting exploits. Again, as a reader I can't but help contrasting this to Mr. Anderson's vulnerability and regrets especially after he loses his parents in his old age.
Personally, the best part of the book for me is the profoundly worded introduction of the book given by an old Donald Anderson in his last days reflecting back on his colorful life which he lived to the fullest. In this intro, my best lines which incidentally answers the most nagging question in my heart are:
"Many people have asked me whether I regret shooting so many animals, and it is perhaps the toughest question I have been asked in my life. Considering the risks I took in the jungle, and the lifestyle I led, I never expected to live to this day and was sure, perhaps even hopeful, that my last drops of my blood would be soaked by the grass in one of my favourite jungles. I thought I would never live long enough to feel compunction.
Although I am an educated man and have had almost no belief in God or even karma, I've come to terms with the fact that someone wanted me to live this long, to remind me of my acts, and perhaps seek retribution for the lives I had taken."
This book does not idealize Donald Anderson by any stretch of the imagination but at the same time celebrates his life. Most importantly , this book is an adventure which allows the reader to explore the majestic wildlife and beauty of jungles of South India. It allows the reader to escape into an era long gone and develop an attachment to people belonging to places unknown. Overall an incredibly worthy tale masterfully told by the author.
This book tells all about the colorful Anderson family , many unknown facts,thrilling encounters and the life & times of Don.
My sincere thanks goes to Joshua Matthew. who has crafted this beautiful biography of Donald Anderson.
This is an beautiful collectors item with rare images. My only complain would be the quality of the photographs.
Since this book aims at a niche category of readers with never before seen images of the Anderson's ,
I had expected the photo prints to be of top quality. Disappointed that it did not come out so.
Would love to collect another edition with the original prints in better quality.
If you are a fan of Kenneth Anderson, a fan of wild life, a fan of days gone by , a student of history or just interested in life in Bangalore over the decades before and after independence, this is the book for you.
Reading any of Kenneth Andersons books before reading this one would provide far more context but you could read this one on its own,
It chronicles in vivid detail what life was like from the 1940s, the life of Anglo Indians before and after independence.
If you are a Kenneth Anderson fan , this is a must read and provides a lot of details and background from the stories.
Don's early life would be the same as many people from that era and would be of interest to all. The hunting story drags a bit and is not for the squeamish. However these stories are from a different era when the norms were not what they are now.
I know the author personally.
Don may not have achieved what his dad did. But this book is a candid account of his life and times which he lived fullest on his own terms. Don (JM) neither extols his virtues nor sings a paean to him, but delivers an interesting mesmerizing read of the life and times gone by. Don is in his elements when he honestly brings out his thoughts on his acts of omissions and commissions, laced with subtle humour where appropriate. He even takes a dig at KA's frugal ways and perceived dogmatic opinions!
I often used to wonder about the family life, friends, lineage and non-adventure aspects of a person like KA, He has rarely mentioned about these aspects of his life in his books, save some hunting and angling expeditions with his Englishmen friends. This was the kind of book I was longing for that doused my inquisitiveness and curiosities about the other sides of the one and only KA .
Growing up on a voluntary diet of the likes of Ruskin Bond, Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson, my joy knew no bounds on reading this book in a single stretch of about 5 hours! These books are a Collector's delight.
On the flip side, I really wonder why Donald had to reel under penury during his last years since royalties from KA's books must have accrued to Donald Anderson as per law. May be JM can clarify.
Kudos to JM, Naveen, Jayaraman and a host of others who made it possible to get acquainted with Don and help bring out such a lovely book.
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