I am really glad to say that some of my friends have found these tiger tales informative, inspiring and educational. They have informed me that they now look at the tiger with a lot more affection than they used to. A handful, after a few pulls at mugs of Old Monk, have indeed promised to keep a tiger as a pet. I have advised them to go easy on the Old Monk – that ambrosial nectar can do strange things to a person’s imagination, particularly to those who are newly converted to this concoction of the Gods.
However, for the hardier specimens among my friends, I am relating this lesson on how to acquire his or her own pet tiger. My lifelong study of the human species has taught me that the female will be far more successful in acquiring and managing such a pet. It is my advice that the males of the human species should stick to their Old Monks, while the females go out to the nearest tiger habitat and set about capturing a live tiger for the joy and edification of their households.
I learnt this lesson from my friend’s uncle – not the uncles featured in my previous posts, but from another such intrepid avuncular soul. You don’t need a gun for this; what you need is a large basketful of lemons. I could do worse than relate the tale in full.
My friend’s uncle was a renowned hunter who had turned to wildlife conservation, much like his hero, Jim Corbett. And like Corbett, he knew no better enjoyment than capturing tigers and other wildlife on film. Due to his decades of study of tigerlife, he was always the first port of call of all the zoos in the world which wanted to capture a tiger. Also, in case there was a particularly malcontent tiger attacking village cattle and goats, the Forest Department immediately sent for the uncle to help capture the offender and remove him or her to some other area.
Some years ago, in the early spring, he got such a call from Tamil Nadu. A notorious cattle-lifter was making life miserable for the villages around the Mudumalai area. So, could the gentleman please present himself and help capture this fellow? Within a week, the uncle had presented himself at the village which was the epicentre of such depredations.
After a few hours of conversation with the villagers and the Forest Department staff, and also wandering about in the forest, he made up his mind. He would set up a machan some three kilometres from the village, and spend the night there. He wanted a fat male goat, and one large basket of lemons to be given to him. No guns; and no forest department staff to protect him – he was well able to protect himself, thank you.
At sundown, the uncle crept silently up into the machan and made himself comfortable for what promised to be an exciting all-night vigil. The goat had been tied up under a simul tree just opposite the machan; the basket of lemons, ripe, large and juicy, was at hand. His powerful torch was kept close by, as was a coil of long sturdy rope. So was the hipflask of Old Monk, without which this gentleman never went into the forest.
Late at night, there was the slightest sound of careful footsteps on dry grass. The uncle very carefully lifted the torch and switched it on. There, about to leap on to the goat, was the tiger, crouched in a Jackie Chan pose. The tiger froze in the light, and turned towards the uncle with a snarl. “Take this”, said the uncle, and threw a lemon into his mouth. The tiger crunched it up and snarled again. The uncle threw another couple of lemons into the tiger’s gaping maw. The tiger crunched these up as well and sneezed and jumped into the undergrowth and scampered away.
“You will come back, my friend! no escape for you tonight.” The uncle smiled to himself.
A couple of hours later, another slight sound, this time from just below the machan. The uncle was ready. He sat up, switched on the torch to light up the bushes under the machan, and there was this big fellow sitting under the machan, with its mouth open. The uncle quickly dropped a large handful of lemons into the mouth. The tiger again crunched them up, and sneezed again and ran away.
Next morning, just after sunrise, the villagers were astonished to see the goat running pell-mell into the village, bleating at the top of his voice. A few hundred yards behind came the uncle leading a large fat male tiger at the end of a leash.The tiger looked distinctly unhappy, and tried to bite into the rope, but as hard as he tried, he just couldn’t do it.
The uncle sauntered into the village, tied up the leash around a large peepul tree, and demanded a large mug of hot tea. While this was being prepared, the villagers thronged around him. How did the sahib manage to catch such a large animal, and come through so obviously unscathed, indeed so completely unscratched? What was the secret of his success?
After consuming two mugs of sweet tea and almost a whole packet of thin arrowroot biscuits, dutifully dunked into the tea, the uncle spoke. “It was very simple. Every hour or so, the tiger would come to attack me or the goat, and every time, I would feed him some lemons. The whole basket was gone by the morning, so I came down from the machan, took the rope, tied one end round the tiger’s neck and dragged it to the village.”
“But, why didn’t it bite you?” A hundred voices asked him this question.
“Bite? How can it bite? After eating about a hundred lemons? Arre baba, all those lemons have caused acid burn on his lips and mouth. Also you know that lemon juice is good for clearing the bowels. After eating a hundred lemons, the fellow has the runs. He is not thinking of biting or scratching or running away. Someone quickly make a lot of thair sadam – the poor fellow will be all right soon.”