Here’s one more tale from the archives – absolutely genuine and true, just like the other ones which I had related to you some weeks ago.
I must make mention of some carpers and cavilers – obviously from the Extreme Left – who have been muttering “lies”, “tall stories”, etc while reading the other tiger tales. I guess this is the lot of man, something that all of us have to bear. I have never mentioned that the uncle who ran down the railway lines, chased by the tiger, actually broke the Olympic mile record, did I? Well, the truth is that he did, but I did not mention this because there were no independent observers with timers in their hand, so that the world could have an authentic account of his record-breaking effort. It’s just the villagers nearby who were the witnesses to his remarkable achievement.
The uncle of my friend, the hero of this story, was the first person to demolish the myth of the ‘the tiger that cannot die.’
The story goes like this.
For many years, the villagers in the Assam and Dooars jungles have been petrified by the ‘tiger who cannot die’. Much like the Temple Tiger, made famous by Jim Corbett, this tiger too could not be killed. Not that it was a maneater or caused any trouble to the villagers, except for some innocent cattle lifting, and some playful removal of the pestilential goats that were such a nuisance to the magnificent king of the forest.
Many shikaris had tried and failed. Many officers of the Forest Departments, armed with the mandate of capture by some zoo or the other, had tried and failed as well.
So, finally, my friend’s uncle was requested by the District Magistrate and the chief of the Forest Department to come and rid them of the pest. Like all animal lovers, the uncle laid down some pretty tough clauses – he will not shoot to kill, but only with tranquillizer bullets, so they can be captured and moved somewhere safe. Also, he would not want to use any bait – he would sit up himself over the latest kill and see what he had to see.
You don’t argue with this uncle. So, one evening, just after sundown, the uncle, accompanied by his large tranquillizer gun, climbed onto a machan and settled down for the night. He had his little hipflask containing some excellent Lagavulin 25-years old. He also had his little iPod with his favourite Rabindrasangeet (how can you keep a good Bong away from Rabindrasangeet?).So, tucking his blankets around him, he settled in for his long, lonely vigil.
Some three hours later, he suddenly heard the slightest footstep on the dry grass on the field about a hundred yards from the machan. He froze, and very slowly raised the gun to his shoulder. After a little while, suddenly, in the total darkness, two eyes lit up.
Ahha, thought the uncle, so this is the unkillable tiger. He took careful aim between the two eyes, and slowly and gently pressed the trigger.
The eyes went off…and after a few seconds, they came back on again.
Now that’s curious, thought the uncle. Maybe I had aimed wrong in the darkness, he thought. Another part of his mind said, how can that be? You who have hunted the kinkajou in the Amazon basin, you who have hunted the carcajou in the Canadian wilderness, how could you make such a boo-boo of this shot. So, settle down, and try again, half his mind told him.
Some minutes later, the two eyes popped alight again. Now he won’t make a mistake again. He took his time, and aiming for the centrepoint between the two eyes, he shot again. The eyes went off….and after 5 seconds, they were shining there again!
Confound the cat, he thought. This had never happened to me, he thought. Am I going insane, or just old? he thought.
He had to investigate this phenomenon – there was no two ways about this. So, he switched on the torchlight fixed to the barrel of his gun. And this is what he saw:
On his left was one tiger, sitting with one eye shut, like this:
and right next to him was another tiger, sitting with one eye shut, like this:
For the reader suffering from water on the brain, this is what he saw:
The uncle sat back on his haunches, laid down his gun, brought out his Lagavulin, and taking a deep draught, began laughing. In the moonlight, he took of his hat, and bowed his head to the two tigers.