Tiger King by Kalki
What is the general attitude of human beings towards wild animals? .. People’s attitude curiously varies with their economic status. The super rich and the feudal class term these animals ‘game’. Their hunting is a favorite hobby of the aristocrats. The attitude becomes soft as we proceed to the middle class. These people look upon the jungle animals with awe, and sympathy. Among the poorest, especially the tribal class, wild animals are seen as co-inhabitants on mother earth. Instead of animosity, the attitude is ‘live and let live’. Unless the beasts torment them, these poor people don’t turn on them.
Paraphrase .. The Maharaja of Pratibandapuram, was a vainglorious king with a highly bloated ego. His rather grandiose name ‘His Highness Jamedar-General, Khiledar-Major, Sata Vyaghra Samhari, Maharajadhiraja Visva Bhuvana Samrat, Sir Jilani Jung Jung Bahadur, M.A.D., A.C.T.C., or C.R.C.K.’ bore testimony to his exaggerated sense of greatness.
As the story goes, he had got the admiring name ‘The Tiger King’ soon after his birth. When he was just 10 days old, he had proclaimed loudly to the royal astrologer and his assistants that he had no fear of the big cats. In fact, he had blustered that no matter how dreadful the prophecy of the chief astrologer was, he would not refrain from killing tigers. What had provoked the ten-day-old royal baby to thunder like this was a sulking caution from the astrologer that the killing of tiger could portend his demise. When the king grew up to a young man of fine fettle, he developed a penchant for tiger hunting. His remarkable success in hunting down tigers bolstered his reputation as ‘The Tiger King’.
However, true to the astrologer’s predictions, this legendary tiger-hunter king met his death in a very unusual and interesting way. The death came after he had successfully killed 100 tigers.
The king in his boyhood days had an ‘English’ upbringing. He drank the milk of an English cow, studied English under a British tutor, had an English nanny etc. etc. In other words, Jilani Jung Jung Bahadur grew up seeped in English culture.
On reaching the age of twenty, Jilani Jung Jung Bahadur became the formal king of Pratibandapuram. But the astrologer’s predictions rang in his mind relentlessly. The kingdom had vast swathes of virgin forests that abounded in tigers. The cats provided the young bubbling Jilani Jung Jung Bahadur both an opportunity and a challenge. He decided to take on the feline foes. He went on frequent hunting forays into the forest. On no occasion he returned without a trophy.
Immediately after killing his first tiger, the Tiger King confronted his astrologer. But, the later stood his ground and repeated his foreboding caution. The King could kill 99 tigers, but the 100th one would be fatal for the king, the astrologer asserted vehemently.
The young Tiger King took it as a challenge. He vowed not to rest till he killed 100 tigers. He continued his hunting with great passion.
The success boosted his ego and soured him go after the jungle tigers with renewed zeal. He could play scant attention to his usual royal functions. Like a soul possessed he went after the tigers.
However, his success had an un-intended fall-out. The tiger population in the forest depleted, making it harder and harder for the hunter-king to spot a prey. The Tiger King had reached a tally of just 70. He had another thirty to kill.
The Tiger King was extremely proud and possessive about his pursuits. On one occasion, he rebuffed an English man’s request for hunting rights in his father-in-law’s forests. He said the English man could kill any other beasts, but tigers. Even he couldn’t allow the colonial ruler’s plea for just a photograph with a tiger killed by the Tiger King. Hunting glory couldn’t be conceded to anyone, he vainly reasoned.
The Englishman’s ego must have been badly bruised. Ro mollify him, the Tiger King had to urgently requisition a sizeable collection of jewellery from Calcutta and had it sent to the wife to select the best few. The greedy lady kept back the whole lot of the precious jewels. The Tiger King had to foot the hefty bill running to three lakh rupees. The Calcutta store’s owner was richer by three lakh, and, in the bargain, the Tiger King had staved off a show-down with the Englishman.
To get more tigers for his hunting expeditions, he needed more forests. For more forests, he needed un-fettered hunting rights. For hunting rights, he had to have relations with another king. And for such relations to be established, he needed to marry another king’s daughter. Thus, more than the urges of his youth, the need for feline preys made him look around for kings with abundant forests and a daughter of marriageable age.
Finally, Jilani Jung Jung Bahadur zeroed on one such king. He married his daughter. Thus started the phase 2 of his hunting saga. He had to kill another thirty.
Finally, the day of reckoning arrived. The population of tigers in the father-in-law’s forest became close to extinct. The Tiger King spent days looking for a prey, but success eluded him. He was clearly exasperated and angry. His tally had reached 99. The final goal of 100 looked so tantalizingly close, but sp elusive. Jilani Jung Jung Bahadur was restless and jittery. He vented his anger on the people around him and the nearby village.
Soon, some happy news reached the Tiger King’s ears. It emerged that sheep in a nearby village were disappearing at regular intervals. The King concluded that a tiger must be in the prowl. The king was elated. In appreciation of the villagers’ contribution (whatever that might be), the Tiger King waived their taxes for three years.
The tiger in the King’s radar proved to be very hard to spot. The tetchy king stayed put in the forest to hunt down the elusive tiger. He refused to leave the place without his trophy.
The poor dewan had to bear the brunt of the King’s wrath. He knew things can go really awry if the King didn’t kill the hundredth tiger.
The wily dewan had a tiger brought in a motor car from People’s Park in Chennai. But on reaching the vicinity of the forest where the King had camped, the beast refused to alight from the car. The dewan was in a quandary.
The next brought some huge relief to the dewan and great joy to the brooding King. The tiger voluntarily left the car and walked leisurely to the King’s presence, as if supplicating to be the King’s 100th prize. The King lost no time in taking aim at the tiger. He fired the shot.
With mission accomplished, the King left the place and hurried back to the palace. The men were ordered to bring the dead tiger.
The story, however, took a bizarre turn. The men discovered that the animal had not been felled by the bullet, but numbed into stillness by the fury of the speeding bullet that whizzed past his ears.
The King’s men were utterly bewildered to see the tiger dazed and alive. They had no option but to instantly shoot it dead, because they had to cart its dead body to the King.
The King got his 100th trophy. He patted himself in the back for proving the astrologer wrong.
In due course of time, a son was born to the royal household. The King was happy like never before. The third birthday arrived. The king decided to give his son a befitting present. He went to the bazaar and entered a toy shop. His eyes fell on a wooden tiger. He quickly reasoned that this would be the right gift for the boy whose father had hunted 100 tigers.
The shop keeper sensed an opportunity to make some quick profit and increased the wooden tiger’s price manyfold. The jubilant king brought the toy to the palace. The badly finished toy had blisters left on the body.
In matter of days, the blisters pricked the king’s hand. The wound didn’t heal. Its infection spread to the entire hand. Doctors were called in to operate the arm, but the king succumbed to the wound. The killer of 100 tigers finally met his death by tine blisters of an innocuous wooden toy tiger. What an end to a haughty, hubristic, and cruel ruler!