Land of the tiger beckons: A profile of self-taught wildlife photographer Debashish Dutta
"The book of nature has no beginning, as it has no end. Open this book where you will, and at any period of your life, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge, you will find it of intense interest, and no matter how long or how intently you study the pages, your interest will not flag, for in nature there is no finality." - Jim Corbett
In 1981, an eight-year-old boy had stars in his eyes when he read real-time big cat experiences penned down by the legendary Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson - who knew the majestic jungles of India like few others.
He grew up. Studied hard. Carved out a fulfilling career path. But, beneath the typical normalcy of adhering to parental expectations, his heart belonged to the jungle.
A Patna-born Bengali, Debashish Dutta lived in the holy city of Benaras and studied from the stately Benaras Hindu University.
After an MBA from ICFAI Business School, Ahmedabad began a 20-year-career in Retail, Investment and Custodian banking.
After having worked in Delhi, Gurgaon, Vishakhapatnam and Pune, the 46-year-old is today global director and head, Operational Risk, at a major global banking and financial services firm in Chennai.
So much so, that his dream destination is not Las Vegas or snow-clad Swiss Alps but the forests within India and yes, the true essence of wildlife – Africa.
Although his work keeps him in concrete jungles – a bad namesake – Debashish makes sure every now and then, he goes ‘home’, whether it is Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya or the Tadoba Tiger Reserve near Nagpur in Maharashtra.
For someone who turned to his true calling with Jim Corbett National Park, 12 years back with a friend’s camera, Debashish has come a long way.
Save the earth
The self-taught expert’s iconic photographs have found their rightful place on his website.
“When you go to a jungle, the serenity that you feel, the pollution free air that you get to breathe, are constant reminders of what our planet WAS! Through my photography, I want to showcase that the jungles are the most beautiful part of our planet and we cannot afford to destroy them. If this balance is destroyed, human beings will not survive either.”
Following the footsteps of Assamese Padma Shri awardee Jadav Payeng, also known as ‘Forest Man of India’, his dream is also to transform barren land into a wildlife-rich forest. The only catch, Debashish does not have access to any.
He awaits governmental assistance in the matter but is hopeful that one day it will work out through sanction of such land and of course, quintessential funding. The 46-year-old is highly perturbed with ‘urban development’.
“We are losing our greenery at a very rapid rate. Where will we get oxygen from? We are chopping forests. Animals who have lost their habitats are getting killed on the railway tracks and highways that we continue to make.” He wonders where it would finally end!
Meanwhile, he is doing all he can. He is also writing a book titled My Soul Lives in the Jungle to showcase his photographs with details - in the hope that the next generation will at least get to ‘see’ the animals before they become extinct.
Have no fear
‘Fear’ of the big cats is obviously an impossibility for someone who has grown up loving wildlife. “In fact, animals are much better than human beings. They bear no malice – mean no harm to you. They will only attack you to protect themselves,” defends the BBC Earth and Nikon Asia recognised Natural History photographer, who is friends with several tribesmen across Africa.
Be it being chased by an elephant herd or a tiger walking right past after dismissing him with a glance, his life in the wilderness has been truly thrilling.
It doesn’t end here. The jungle swashbuckler has already planned out his itinerary for the next five years, Tanzania in 2020 – The Ndutu Conservation Area, Ngorongoro Crater & Serengeti National Park; Kenya in 2021 – Amboseli National Park & Masai Mara National Reserve; Tanzania in 2022 – 50,000 sq ft- Selous Game Reserve & Ruaha National Park; Botswana in 2023 – Chobe National Park & Okavango Delta; Botswana & South Africa in 2024 - Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park & Kruger National Park and finally; Zimbabwe in 2025 - Mana Pools.
If this isn’t enough for wanting to go on an African safari, what is?
Check out Debashish’s pics on his website fromdawntodusk.in and on his Instagram page @fromdawntodusk_india
- Shonali Prakash