It is not very often that we come across
people who have seen the world through a myriad
window with experiences that transcend time.
Colonel John Felix Wakefield who is now
ninety five year old has done all this over his
long and chequered career. He has been a hunter
and a soldier, also being a diplomat and working
in a corporate venture for some time.
But what makes him so special in the
conservation history of India is that he has been
passionately involved in ecotourism based
conservation over the past 30 years. For the past
twenty five years, he has been on the board of
JLR. He is the Brand Ambassador of JLR, still
hard at work in his second home Kabini.
While sitting over an evening drink with
Colonel Wakefield, one is struck by the vast
amount of historical wealth he possesses.
His modest living room in the Viceroy Lodge at the
Kabini River Lodge is stacked with books of all
sorts – from wildlife to travels to cookery show
tips. He also has an assortment of knick-knacks,
ranging from a singing fish to a highly rusted
Swiss army knife. Above all, he has an envious
array of liquor, found nowhere else but in his
He needs it all for his guests ranging from
Hollywood legends to high profile businessmen.
Amazingly, he disappoints no one and even an
unknown visitor is treated to his warmth and
welcoming attitude to which there is no parallel.
At his age, he oversees that state of affairs
of the largest property of JLR and does it with
élan. Every evening, the office boy comes over
with the guest list for the next day. After each
safari, the naturalists describe in detail the
sightings of the evening. The manager constantly
takes guidance from him. The Colonel is the axle
around which the professional ethic of Kabini
Papa John as the world calls him is a living
encyclopedia who shares his wide experience
He is not well today and has just returned from a long stay at a hospital.
Though the best thing is that inspite of whatever ailments that might have affected him, he is still very healthy up in his head. These next few days should see him getting better.