"Should we get rid of the tiger? No, that would not be right. He has the right to live just as we do." The quiet words seem unremarkable, except that they are coming from the mouth of a 17-year-old whose mother was killed by a tiger.
The last time I saw my mother alive was in the morning before I went to school,” says Jyoti Meshran, a shy girl whose sudden smile when we meet lights up the bright day even more. “When I came back in the afternoon, my mother was not there. She had gone into the forest to cut firewood. They took her body home. The tiger had taken a bite out of her neck – that was the only part that was missing.”
Jyoti lives in the village of Sirkada, a collection of a few poor houses whose families live by rice farming. She has never seen a tiger. “I know people come here from all over the world to see them but I do not want to,” she says. “My mother used to tell me that the tiger is very frightening and we should not be going to the forest, but we need to.”
The “forest” is the woodland bordering the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, a 625 sq. km. region that is home to around 74 of the 169 Bengal tigers in Maharashtra State. The reserve is a hard six-hour drive from the city of Nagpur, which sits at the exact geographical center of India. Only a crumbling colonial-era monument to this unique setting attracts tourists to the town. As Jyoti says, those who come are heading straight off to places such as Tadoba-Andhari.
Tadoba National Park