Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Tiger and the Trap

I sat in the hip restaurant-coffee shop catching up with friends on a visit home. The large screen TV and an even larger surround sound belted the top Bollywood hits.

“He’s muscular, He’s popular,
This bachelor is spectacular.
He’s a craze amongst girls. He’s the blued eyed boy. He’s got a fast car.
Handsome like an Englishman (ah... the gift of colonialism) he wears brands like Rado and Gucci (the gifts of neo-colonialism).
He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he’s filthy rich.
But ‘Pappoo’ (the lad) can’t dance ‘saala’ (damn it)”

“What a song”, said my friend ‘S’ moving to the groovy number. “Deserves to be on the countdown”.
I was following the video on the screen. ‘The lad’ (Pappoo) was actually a decent dancer. So looking at the miserable expression on Pappoo’s face, I believe the lyrics actually referred to the other meaning of dance: enjoying oneself, having a good time. (Look up urban dictionary online).

Shortly, my gaze was drawn towards a young man at the bar. He was young, handsome, athletic, looked rich, and judging by the number of greetings thrown his way, equally popular amongst girls and boys.
Wow, the song playing could have been written for him. And judging by his body language and the smile on his face, this Pappoo could sure dance, Damn it.

“Don’t you recognise him?” asked S. “He’s ........ (Well let’s just call him Pappoo, the lad)”
“You mean Pappoo, son of Mr. L and the grandson of Late Mr. M?”
“Yes the same. Weren’t your granddads friends?” said S. “Come I’ll introduce you”

“Hi shooter, I’m Pappoo. It’s so good to meet you. I’ve heard you write about big game hunts in old India. My grandfather was a very avid hunter. Shot more than xx tigers. Would you care to come home and have a look at his trophies?” said he, a charming man Indeed.
Pappoo lived close by. Everyone knew where his family mansion was. A one acre mansion in the heart of old-money-area of the capital city. Tall iron gates at the entrance, a fountain in the front yard, a porch leading to the main door, a massive reception hall; yes sir, this was old money all right.
We stepped into the huge and here they were: dozens of big game trophies of big cats in general, and tigers in particular. There were tiger heads, tiger rugs, half mounts and full body mounts. The walls were also adorned with the photographs of the hunts. Big beasts, lying on their side, their front paws crossed delicately, all head shots or engine room shots- 1 shot kills. “Grandpa was a fine shot”, said Pappoo proudly, looking adoringly at the gentleman posing over the tigers, a fine double rifle in his hands and foot placed victoriously over the dead beasts.
I was studying the old photographs and the trophies when Pappoo said, “Grandpa was very quiet when it came to shikar-(hunting) stories. He never talked much about his conquests nor bragged about his hunts. I’m sure there must be many exciting tales about his adventures in the Jungles. Hey shooter, you heard and remember hundreds of hunting tales and stories recounted to you by your grandfather. Did he ever tell you about grandpa? Mention him in his stories? Talk about grandpa’s shooting prowess? Did he?”


It was another Saturday evening and the family was sitting around the winter fire around the backyard. Kaka, our cook was preparing his speciality ‘safed maans’ literally white meat; meat cooked in yogurt, milk fudge, poppy seeds, cashew, saffron and other exotic spices. All the ingredients were chopped, prepared and ready to go into the pot. We were only waiting for fresh deer venison that my father had gone out to shoot. Waiting for him to return, we were snacking to ‘soola’ kababs; barbecued meat marinated in garlic, paprika and ‘kachri’- the dried powdered fruit of the cucumber family found only in the Indian desert- and tasty enough to be served to the Queen Elizabeth during her Tiger shoot in 1962.

“Bana-(respectful title given to young lords) has returned”, announced Shafi, my grandfather’s driver and assistant.
“Finally. We are famished. Send him here.” ordered granddad. “I wonder what he’s shot today”.

“Sorry father”, apologised dad to Granddad. “No luck today. No deer in sight. However not all is lost. Seeing that by the time I’d get back into town, the butchers would shut down, I procured a goat in the jungle itself”, he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“Oh no. Not that goat you naughty man.” chided granddad playfully.

“The very same”, laughed father.

“What goat? I piped in, inquisitively.

“It belongs to Mr. M” explained father. “He is really into shooting tigers and he has this spot where his personal shikari ties a goat everyday as a tiger bait. As soon as the tiger eats it, another one is tied in its place. Gradually the tiger gets used to finding prey at the same place every day and sticks to that very place. This way, one is assured of finding the tiger at that particular spot whenever one desires”

“It also assures one of finding a goat in an emergency”, laughed uncle.

“Surely that many goats for decades must cost a small fortune. I’m sure you are not the only one who knows the location of the goats. Don’t the tribals steal them for food?” I asked.

“It’s Mr. M we are talking about son”, said father. “He’s a successful businessman with a head for numbers. He has taken into account goats lost to tigers, illness, thefts etc. And pays his gamekeeper accordingly. No sooner than a goat has gone missing, another one is tied to the spot. A tiger eats 15-20 kg meat a day so that at least goat a day and taking into account thefts, loss to other predators etc, Mr. M has paid for at least 8000-10000 goats during his life. But even that amount of money is like loose change for him. Also just for the record, I’m going to tell him tomorrow and pay for the goat.”

“But money is not the point father”, I Protested. “Where is the fun or the excitement in always finding a tiger in the same spot everyday whenever one wants? Where’s the sport, the fair chase, the thrill, the danger?”

“If he wanted to court danger, he wouldn’t have the trap there”, said uncle.

“What trap?” I asked, puzzled.

“You know the kind that is like a cage with bars and one side is actually the entrance that shuts down tight and no tiger can break through it. When concealed with leaves it can look like a giant bush and used by the circus and forest people to trap tigers.”

“Don’t tell me”, said I sickened to the core “that the goat is placed in the trap and the door shuts when the tiger enters the trap. And then it is shot!! This is literally a canned hunt. Disgusting.”

“Well yes and no. Actually the goat is tied outside the trap, a few metres away.”

“So what’s inside the trap?”

“A chair.”

“A what? Did I hear you say a chair?”

“That’s right” said father. “A plush chair for Mr. M to sit on with, his riflr. The trapdoor would be then secured keeping Mr. M safe from the beast. He would wait patiently till the tiger came for his daily goat and while it was busy eating, he would pick up his fine English double rifle, and shoot the tiger from a few metres away. One shot kills with perfect bullet placements. Not that I agree with it, but not quite what you were thinking”.

“Can’t believe he does that” I blurted out.

“Why do you think he’s not a part of ‘the gang’ (read my other stories) or that a busy businessman like him has more tiger kills than many big game hunters.” Said father.


It’s all about scorekeeping. Back then it was about the number of tigers and now it is about the Boone and Crockett, Pope and young, SCI, CIC. Members of the gang, though big hunters themselves, could never match the trophy records of Mr. M.

With time, Mr. M’s trophy count climbed and so did his reputation as a hunter. Social standing, business deals, invitation to parties; big game hunting was the golf of the Georgian era. The big reception room I was standing in, with all its trophies and photographs bore testimony to the fact.

“Yes, he never spoke about his adventures. That’s why I thought I’d ask you if you knew of them” said Pappoo pulling me out of the memory lane.

I looked at the way Pappoo looked at his late grandpa’s photographs, admiration in his eyes. I thought about Mr. M, slayer of xx tigers looking down at his grandson from the happy hunting grounds above.

“My grandfather always said your grandpa was a great shot with that English double rifle of his. All tigers were indeed one shot kills with perfectly placed head or engine room shots” I said.

Pappoo’s smile widened and it seemed he was about to break into a dance.

“Why?” asked a voice inside me.
I didn’t want to be responsible for “Pappoo can’t dance damnit”

P.S. : the link to the song for those interested:

Queen Elizabeth's hunting trip to Nepal

The following article is not my own writing but a compilation.

Am I a pessimist or is is just me who:
1) either comes across these SAD SAD :cry: :cry: pieces of news
2)or makes me cry/depressed/angry/mad/disillusioned/disgusted?

Below is the article from time magazine about Queen Elizabeth's hunting trip to Nepal. If memory serves me right, this was in 1962 (check reference to going to nepal after India).

I dont want to go on about what went on in Sawai Madhopur (Now Ranthambore national Park) so here is the link to the article.

Since this is an archive, the paragraphs and hedings are skewed so I am repairing them; also the link is in 2 pages hence i am "editing" the article and pasting it below.

Also pasting links to pics from the hunt. Please note that these pics werent a part of the article but I have searched them on the internet on the site(s). The ones below are from Life magazine (copyrights bought by google).

Hope you enjoy (NOT) the article:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/artic ... 26,00.html

Nepal: Hapless Hunting

In the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, where man-eating tigers kill scores of villagers a year, the shikar (tiger hunt) is a popular and practical pastime. The mark of a man is his hunting prowess, and the Nepalese still fondly recall the bloody 1911 visit of Britain's King George V, who carted away the carcasses of 39 tigers, 18 rhinos and four bears-plus one unfortunate leopard, run over by the royal mail van. Last week another royal Briton, Queen Elizabeth II, flew into Katmandu from India, and for George's granddaughter, impoverished Nepal (per capita income estimated at $70 cash a year) planned the most elaborate one-day shikar in its history. 

Buckets of Bugs: 

Tribesmen corralled 305 trained hunting elephants, and Nepalese troops cleared a campsite in the dense Meghavli jungle. To get rid of insects and snakes, they stripped six inches of soil off a 2-sq.-mi. area, replaced it with soft turf and a specially constructed water sprinkling system. Buckets of bugs were carried away, and the entire site was sprayed with DDT. Into the Queen's two-bedroom tent went a white-lacquered zinc bathtub, hot-water plumbing, and a flush toilet-equipped with a red velvet seat cover for comfort in the early-morning chill. 





An airstrip was constructed; access roads from Katmandu, 160 miles away, were widened and improved. In high grass four miles from camp, workmen set up a "hunting ring," surrounded by a 5-ft. fence of white cloth and stocked with a smallish 8-ft. 8-in. tigress flushed from the jungle the day before. 

Perched atop placid howdah elephants and shaded by parasols, the royal guests lounged lazily in the hot jungle sun. Bar elephants circulated busily; from their backs, servants dispensed whisky, beer, martinis and gin-and-orange. Only the impatient tiger was uncomfortable. Queen Elizabeth refused to handle a gun, confined her shooting to a 16-mm. movie camera. The honor of being the "invited gun" was to have gone to Prince Philip, who during the royal family's tour of India and Pakistan has potted hundreds of duck and partridge, plus one sizable tiger, has been dubbed "the grim reaper" by the press.

Out of Action:

But Philip was out of action with a "whitlow infection" (more commonly known as a boil) on his trigger finger. Accordingly, Nepal's King Mahendra passed the honor to Britain's Foreign Secretary, Lord Home. Eight times elephants goaded the snarling tigress into the open "firing zone." Three times Lord Home shot. He missed all three. 

Red-faced, Home politely asked for help from Rear Admiral Christopher Bonham Carter, Philip's treasurer, and Sir Michael Adeane, Elizabeth's secretary. Firing simultaneously, Bonham Carter and Adeane dropped the tiger in its tracks-while Home missed once more. Said Lord Home: "I only wish Prince Philip could have done the shooting. I've never ridden an elephant before, never seen a tiger outside the zoo. I thought I'd never hit the thing in a hundred years the way it was rushing backwards and forwards." 


Exotic Menu:

The ordeal over, Elizabeth and Philip recessed for lunch along the Narayani River. The exotic menu: black partridge, florican crane, wild boar shashlik, shredded venison curry. Then they went after bigger game: a female rhinoceros, spotted plodding through the jungle, calf in tow. Prized by poachers (who grind the horns into a powder that is valued as an alleged aphrodisiac), the one-horned rhino has almost disappeared from Nepal. But Marksman Home was not to be denied. With the help again of Bonham Carter and Adeane, he quickly dispatched the lumbering beast, left its calf to fend for itself in the jungle. 

Predictably, animal-loving Britons declared themselves shocked. Even the independent Church of England weekly, the Church Times, clucked: "Apart from the enormous expense of this entertainment in a country w?here poverty is rife, there does seem something quite unnecessary in involving Her Majesty in so decadent an occasion." Clutching her camera, the Queen told Nepal's Mahendra: "This was one of the most exciting days of my life." Happiest of all was Huntsman Home with his rhino. Said he: "I am having the horn and the front feet. Sir Michael is having the back end. I am not certain what I shall do with the feet-probably make them into wastepaper baskets."

:evil: :shock: :( :cry:

The life magzine laments: 

"There were 80 Rhinos.... now there are just 79"

I say make that 78 after the motherless calf dies.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The princess, the panther and the pain.

"Very unusual", said the Dr. "Doesn't sound like a heart attack; in fact it doesn't sound like anything I've ever seen. We must investigate further. What brought it on?"


"Next time you visit India, You must visit my factory. Your friend has made it big buddy", My friend had said.
So here i was, sitting in a chauffeur driven BMW ("Seven series. Double woofer surround sound leather seats. Charger for laptop, iPhone and DVD player. Plus paid extra to have it delivered before my neighbour could have one", he had proudly informed me.)
" It is an upcoming industrial area. Got the land really cheap, there is a big govt. incentive for industrialisation. The whole area measures thousands of acres; you'll see."
It was massive, there were factories, pipelines, gas lines, roads, transport links. Accommodation for workers and engineers. Schools for the workers children, hospital, roads, Colleges; all in all it was a town in itself.
My friends factory had a huge metal gate, a driveway, conference facilities, a plush directors office and many employees. He gave me a guided tour, introduced me to his employees, and went into a lengthy ramble about turnover, bottom line, expansion plans.
But I was looking out of the window at the hill across the highway. At the castle atop the hill, actually.
"Oh how silly of me to have forgotten", Said my friend. "Doesn't that belong to a distant relative of yours? Haven't you been there a few times as a kid? What was it like from the inside? " On and on he goes with his list of questions. But I am ooblivious to him and my surroundings.
I am inside the big formal hall inside the castle, a child looking at the hunting trophies proudly displayed and each one of them a work of art, hand made by the fabled Dutch taxidermist Van Ingen.
Each trophy has a story that goes with it, fondly narrated by the king and the other members of the royal family. Stories of his ancestors, friends and family. Stories of an era long gone and never to return. Of men of a creed never to set foot on the face of this earth again. I am listening to one such story.......
She was a princess. Not only in the way a daughter is a princess to her parents but in that her father was actually a king. She was brought up in the castle. She had a nanny, a team of servants, ponies, pets, personal assistants and much more. She'd had the best education money could buy. She was also pretty, intelligent, sophisticated and cultured. But there was something which disturbed the king slightly.
She was exposed to the outdoors from birth. Riding, shikar- hunting and shooting, fishing, picnics weren't new to her and she had nothing against it but she herself did not like to shoot. In any other family it would have been fine but in this illustrious family, warrior kings forged by fire, where men rode horses as soon as they could walk and shot big game at 8, it was , shall we say, slightly out of character.
"My dear daughter", said the king, "what is this aversion that you have towards shooting? Everyone in your family, even your mother is a great shot and a superb shikari; yet you haven't showed the slightest inclination ever to learn to shoot"
"Father", replied the princess, "I know my  family's love for the outdoors. All my siblings are now accomplished shots but I don't know why, I've never been attracted to it. However, since it is so important to you, I will shoot, just once, for you."
This was music to the kings ears. He lovingly brought out his London best rifle, loaded it with cartridges and proceeded to teach his daughter to shoot. However since it was more to humour the king than a target shoot, she decided to shoot it into the forest beneath the hill. So she stood at her window balcony of her room in the castle, safely pointed the rifle towards dense wild forest below and did what her father had taught her. Rifle butt in the shoulder pocket, cheek on the stock, relax, breath in, no need to line up the sights as theres no target, and gently squeeze the trigger.


"Throw a stone" is an expression used widely in India. It is used to denote something very common or present in great numbers. For instance:
Throw a stone in Texas and it will land on a republican.
Throw a stone in Afghanistan and it will land on an AK-47
Of course it is supposed to be a hyperbole intended to convey the meaning and it was with same intention the shikaris of yore used to say of the forests of Central Provinces of India that throw a stone there and it will land on a big cat.  But was it actually a hyperbole?
But I digress. Where was I?

Yes... so BANG went the rifle and this was followed a second later by a loud blood curdling roar. Then nothing.
The king ordered his gamekeeper to go investigate what happened and down into the forest he went with his assistant trackers. They returned a few hours later, their faces a picture of jubilation.
"Congratulations rajkumariji-princess!" they all greeted her. "on bagging this magnificent panther!!"
Thus the princess who eschewed guns became the only shikari in the world to have a 100% record of killing a dangerous game with every bullet she fired in her life!!!


"Buddy", I am jolted back to the present by my friend. "So how did you like my factory? What do you think of the industrial estate?"
I am quickly judging the distance of the castle-hill to the factory and calculating the ballistic trajectory of a bullet fired by an express rifle.
The leopard should have been shot not far from this plush office ("wi-fi, Hd projector, fax and satellite television", the manager proudly pointed out)
"I am getting the mining contract", my friend rambled on. "We are going to have a big mine and export to Europe."
"Its really great", I said feebly.
And that is when the pain started. It stabbed at my heart and brought tears to my eyes.


"Good news", said the Dr. "all reports are normal. All's well and nothing to worry about."
"All's well and nothing to worry about", I repeated. Surely if that's the case then why am I having this pain?

The majestic castle,  a slient spectator for centuries, once standing over miles of dense jungles is now a moot sentinel for the massive industrial area.

The princess is no more now.
The panthers and tigers, once present in enough numbers to fall to a random stray bullet, are critically endangered species.
The pain is still there.
And they cant understand why

Monday, 21 November 2011

France, guns and Pedicures

Firstly I want you all to go through the following link to be able to understand what I am talking about:


Hang on dont go posting your replies yet.... read on.

This was just the background. The story begins now.

OK I'm not into beauty treatments and I'm certainly not into pedicures and this post was supposed to be about how hunting friendly I found France to be; but this one experience I had there made the hunting take a back seat. And if it could make me feel like that, it certainly must be worth sharing.

'A', my shooting friend and a fellow wildfowler invited me to his wedding in France. So there I was at St. Pancras international station, waiting to board the eurostar:


But hang on didn't I forget something...oops! I did forget my shooting books and magazines. :evil: 
Hang on.. there's a WH Smith just round the corner.


The UK's biggest stationary and magazine store chain. I have brought many a magazines from there but I do know from experience that the ones at more 'popular' places like Airports and train stations don't have books on guns, 'killing' (hunting) and other 'evil' things. Well I half expected that so it wasn't a big disappointment.

A few hours later:

I am in Gare Du Nord Paris:


I am just looking for a fizzy drink (cant be promoting a brand here) and go to the first small corner shop within the International station. While drinking my poison, i start browsing through magazines expecting to find something on food/fashion/football etc. I mean look at the tiny size and the location of this shop?

What I do find, is 6 different magazines on guns and hunting right in the second row. And these aren't your pest control/ shooting /ratting magazines but big game hunting magazines featuring guns and hunts for the big five, African safaris, hunting bear in US etc etc.

The adverts sections contained double rifles, nitro express calibre rifles, hunts for elephant, lion, leopard and monster reds!!

Surely this cant be right. I mean there were people of 7 different nationalities in that small kiosk. Most from 'civilised' 'non-blood thirsty' countries. Wouldn't this sort of a first impression upset them or spoil the image of France?
Well no one seemed to care, least of all the owner of the kiosk.

Another few hours later, I am in the small sleepy town of ****** in Champagne Province. According to the latest census the population of the village is less than 350.

It was too late for breakfast so I thought i would have some milk. The hotel owner informed me that the village is so small, there is no train station, no pub, no grocer. Only one part time bakery (really small) which keeps fizzy drinks and juice but they doubted if even they would keep milk.

'I will go have a look' I thought;' It will be good to stretch those legs after a bus ride.'

 Well the bakery was small; in fact it was in a rooms of one of the house in the village. It was also the local newsagent, keeping a few local newspapers but what do i know.... This small bakery, in this house in a sleepy village of less than 350 people, had 2 hunting magazines for sale and even some hunting DVDs!!
I was tempted to give them some business but alas they were in French. But I had a good time looking at the lovely pictures especially the trophies shot by some lady who was the first French woman big game hunter in Africa at the turn of the last century. 

Well so far so good, I am thinking of the big blog I am going to write about the attitude of the locals towards hunting and visiting the trophy collection of the Count etc but then something happened and I had to cut short the hunting article.

You see, while walking through the village, I Came across a path that led to the river flowing through it. 



Now I am a big believer of drinking mineral water and hardly miss a river without sampling its wares. (Read as a kid that Corbett did this to keep his immunity up in the Indian Jungles and have followed the practice ever since; I rationalise it as my training for that elusive African safari).

Well the temperature was in the thirties (above 85 for my american readers) and the water was cool and inviting. Its been almost a decade since I swam in a river, thanks to the English weather 
(barring a slip and a fall in the lake district but that's another story).

While I deliberated about what to do, a family came down from the village and went for a swim with their toddler kids so casually as if they did this every day (which they probably did). This made up my mind.

I took off my clothes and jumped into the surprisingly cold clear water. Things were fine till I stood up to admire the view.
Suddenly a tickle on my foot. No not a tickle, the slightest, softest bite that felt like a tickle, then another and another. 

My god!! piranhas!! 

Hold your horses shooter this is the Aube, not the Amazon.

Looking carefully, I found dozens of fish nibbling at my feet. 

Since I do not put beauty lotions that contain yummy food (cream, cucumber, almonds, saffron etc), I can only imagine they were feeding at my skin and since it wasn't hurting or bleeding, I can only assume it was dead skin. 
This was confirmed when I lifted my foot off the riverbed exposing my sole. They were almost fighting for space!

I then remembered the fish pedicure article read long long ago. 
Since I didn't know this was going to happen to me, I didn't go prepared with a camera. So decided to come back the next day with one.

I'm not a good photographer but I hope you can appreciate this wonderful phenomenon in the following pics. 
You can also see how clean and unpolluted the water is and if you notice hard enough, you can almost feel the balmy sun on your skin.










I don't know whether it was the swim in the river, walking barefoot in the grass, the fish pedicure or just psychological. But my feet did feel soft. Was the experience worth it? You tell me. Will I do it again? You bet!!