Travels on My Elephant: An Indian Journey
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‘I enjoyed this book immensely. Shand is the most engaging adventurer I have come across.’—Imran Khan
When Mark Shand, an aristocratic playboy and travel writer, decided that what he needed was an elephant, it wasn’t long before he started getting phone calls from India, offering elephants for sale. With the help of a Maratha nobleman, he purchased Tara, a young, scrawny female, and travelled with her—and a retinue of friends, old and new—for more than 800 kilometres across India, from Konark to the Sonepur Mela—the world’s oldest elephant market.
From Bhim, a drink-racked mahout, he learnt the skills of elephant driving. From his friend Aditya Patankar, he learnt about the culture and attitudes of India. And with Tara, his new companion, he fell in love. So much so, that decades after their travelling days were over, Mark Shand was still fund-raising and campaigning on behalf of Indian elephants, becoming one of the most high-profile conservationists in the world.
Travels On My Elephant is the story of an epic journey across the dusty back roads of India, as Mark Shand and his party astound, amuse and puzzle all those they encounter on the way. It is also a vivid portrayal of a cheerfully chaotic India and the memorable, touching account of Tara’s transformation from a sad beggar to the star attraction, and Mark Shand’s loyal companion.
Mark Shand (1951–2014) was a travel writer with a playboy past, which he exchanged for the life of a fund-raising conservationist. His travel books include River Dog: A Journey down the Brahmaputra, Queen of the Elephants, Skullduggery (a journey he undertook with his friend Don McCullin) and Travels On My Elephant, for which he received the Travel Writer of the Year award. The latter journey directly led to his foundation of Elephant Family—a charity specifically established to protect the environment of the Asian elephant, tiger and orangutan, and is engaged in the creation and acquisition of jungle corridors that connect together the various different forest reserves.