HomeInterviewsHow Christian the Lion became a 21st century phenomenon

How Christian the Lion became a 21st century phenomenon

When big cats like lions, tigers are mentioned the first thing that comes to mind is the line by William Blake- Tyger, Tyger burning bright, also the title of a marvelous story by Ruskin Bond. In India, the name that comes to mind, for that name is essentially the reason tigers occupy a safe space in India today. Jim Corbett, also called Carpet Sahib( Carpet is the vernacular pronunciation of the Indians that were trying to speak a name so alien to their language). Corbett was a strapping, fearless figure and a very skilled mimic( in his teenage he learned how to mimic the roars of a tiger) and in later years he lured fierce maneaters using this skill. His most famous hunt was the Bachelor of Powalgarh, amongst others, the most prized trophy animal of the United Provinces from 1920-1930, being an unusually large one at 10 feet 7 inches, which was later on bagged by Corbett over some tortuous days in two fateful gunshots. Corbett recorded this hunt of nerves and brains in his book, The Man Eaters of Kumaon, a tale that captivates till date.

You will be very surprised to know that this tale I am about to tell is real, lest you think of me as a serial fabulist. In 1960s London, a haven for the creative men back then, singers, writers, musicians, lived two long haired, flamboyant men by the names of John Rendall and Anthony Bourke, who purchased a lion cub from the legendary departmental store Harrods, for at the time there was no license for exotic animals and the rest is history. The cub accepted them as their own and owing to its animal magnetism quickly became the center of attraction in both their antiques shop and the neighborhood, even being interviewed by the legendary Jack De Manio of BBC. 

Soon enough, their time of parting came for the cub had now grown manfully big and with a heavy but satisfied heart, they left it in the care of George Adamson, the venerable conservationist known as the Lion Man of Africa, who cared for it like the countless lions he had in the past( it is eerie that when I was selecting a photo of his for this article, the one below, I was struck as to how his human features seem less human, more leonine) Years later, when the previous owners met the beloved lion, he bounded and hugged them like long lost friends, an encounter which was recorded and since has become viral on Youtube, having views till recent date.


I used to be so obsessed with animals in my childhood, reading endlessly about them, mimicking their sounds and my knowledge was known to the extent that my relatives called me Animal Encyclopedia. The level of obsession was such that whenever I saw someone wearing an animal print, I used to drag them to my mother who was often around me a lot and cause her much embarrassment, tales she recounts to me till day, My parents got so fed up that they drove me to the Delhi zoo and threatened to leave me there if I did not get over them. But maybe the love is still alive, and writing this article today takes me back to that childhood memory I will always narrate.

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