Of late, there seem to be a plethora of fairly violent TV “reality” shows around the theme, “Man vs Wild” or “Survival in the Wild”, usually featuring beefy Rambos jumping on crocodiles and wrestling with anacondas (for the animals’ good, of course). One of the milder versions has the famous, rugged, gravel-voiced Bear Grylls and his chirpy wife being “stranded” on an uninhabited island, or the middle of a desert, or in the Amazonian jungle — and being made to fend for themselves. Now Grylls is a special forces ex-commando or something of the kind, so has been “grilled” in survival tactics for such situations. Ostensibly, the objective of these shows is to teach you and me how to survive if we are suddenly confronted with an 8 ft grizzly (and only have a penknife) and that can happen anytime!
Survival is all about life and death and the intrinsic problem with such programmes is that you know full well that if there was any serious danger to life and limb, commando and Mrs Grylls would be helicoptered out pronto and spend the night at a motel. Of course, there are risks — they could break an ankle, cut open a head, but heck, you can do that in your bathroom.
Yes, they have to find and hunt their own food, seek water and shelter, light fires and cook and look out for “rescue”. But I wonder how many viewers sit glued to the screen, frantically scribbling down the tips that are doled out: for example, how to tie a proper knot or light a fire by shorting a battery.
Then there’s food: every environment will have its selection of edible and inedible plants, and to know them all is but impossible. Grylls knows which plants are good, and which can kill you, but for this and most of the other skills deployed you need years of training, and not a one-hour TV show.
The biggest problem, however, is with the hunting scenes. In one show, he lays a trap for a wild pig (well, we’re shown the trap being set, and later the poor pig in it, but do not see the pig actually getting caught), and later, knifes it to death. Now I love my pork chops (once or twice a year) so you can argue that I can’t possibly object to this. At least, Grylls is doing his own dirty work — killing his own food, which is more than can be said for the rest of us, and he always says “sorry Mr Pig” or “sorry Mr Bunny” before the dispatch. Sure, but the point is, that he’s not really doing it because he’s actually malnourished and starving to death — he may be darn hungry — but that’s a hunger simulated for an entertainment show on television for which there was no real need in the first place. I doubt Mr Pig or Mr Bunny wanted to star in it.
Well, you see these shows, and then you read about some poor, completely untrained, sod, who has survived under the rubble of a collapsed building for 10 days by drinking pee.
So much better if commando Grylls could show us how to survive getting around on Delhi’s roads.
Ranjit Lal is an author, environmentalist and bird watcher
E-mail author: firstname.lastname@example.org
The story appeared in print with the headline The Hunger Games