Wednesday, 10 October 2012
“The next murder-scene scenario is as follows”, said my professor of forensic medicine.
“There is a dead body, a murder weapon is a handgun but there is just an exit hole but no entry hole. Who can explain this phenomenon?”
I was actually not sitting on the last bench for a change. The forensic medicine class was my favourite in whole of med school. Especially the lectures on gunshot injuries and wounds.
“Hey shooter” said SKY, my best friend, I bet you know the answer.
But I wasn’t there. I had travelled a thousand miles and three decades to the shikarcamp of grandfather, and the rest of the gang.
The camp is breaking up and is accompanied by the hustle and bustle of loading the jeep with pots, pans, food, meat, hunted game, etc. It is getting dark and the citizens of the forest have made sure the departing shikaris (hunters) are bid a fitting goodbye. There is a cacophony of whistles, cackles, shrieks, barks, gobbles, hoots, chirps, roars, and every sound imaginable. Dusk comes earlier in the jungle and maybe it reflects the mood of the hunters as they leave the forest and return to the urban dwellings called home and town.
Hope is a sportsman’s best ally. It’s what keeps men going that extra mile. One last pheasant drive before sunset. One more minute at the pond flighting ducks. One more mile looking for that elusive tusker. One more hill to climb for that royal stag. It’s the hope for bagging that game which makes this sport so addictive, exhilarating and unpredictable.
Maybe it was this hope that made grandfather keep his rifle in his hand; hope that they might ambush some game on the way home. Maybe it was a sixth sense, developed after years of hunting that only hunters know. Maybe it was a co-incidence or just luck. Whatever it was the fact is that grandfather was sitting in the back of ‘909’, our jeep, holding on to his rifle, just in case.
Finding ones way out of forest around dusk can get a bit tricky especially in the absence of roads and signs. After a good half an hour, grandfather felt as if that area of the forest seemed familiar. They were going around in circles!
They got down investigating and the tracks on the dirt road confirmed that they had come where they had started from. But wait, there was something else, pugmarks of leopard over the tire treads! A leopard was following the jeep tracks!
Grandfather got into the back of the jeep; on the lookout. It had now gotten really dark and no one can hear a leopard approach. So one had to rely on the sentries of the forest the birds etc announcing the leopard’s movements. But at this time, the whole forest was a wildlife orchestra with Mother Nature herself the conductor.
All senses alert, my grandfather ordered the driver to start the jeep and make a move. Was it his imagination or was it some noise over and above the noise of the engine. He leaned forwards to take a better look and...
Was it the engine backfiring, everyone wondered, the jeep having started just a few seconds back? But my grandfather brought their attention to the dead leopard lying in the dirt track just behind the jeep.
He later explained that leaning out; he saw the leopard, mouth open ready to spring upon him. I won’t say it was a man-eater tracking them; maybe it was just curious. But as they say, curiosity kills the (big) cat.
“What a tale” said his friend A.U. “you expect us to believe that your reflexes were faster than a leopard.”
“That’s right”, said his brother P.P. “it was inches away from you and you still were fast enough to shoot it before it could attack you.
“But I did”, said grandfather. “You all heard the shot and here’s the empty case to prove it.”
“But you missed. Fired in the air” said A.U. “the poor thing died of a heart attack hearing the noise”.
“With all due respect to Saki, this is not Mrs. Packletide’s tiger”, said grandfather. This is a healthy male in the prime of his youth.
“Well, there should be an entry and exit wound”, everyone agreed.
But look as they might, no one could locate an entry or exit wound or bullet holes. But my grandfather was convinced that he had not missed. He decided to check the insides of the leopard to prove his point.
And guess what? He was right; the leopard had been hit but where were the bullet holes?
You see when granddad started to raise his gun, the leopard, opened its mouth not knowing what a rifle is, saw it as the part of the shooters body or an appendage being thrust towards it and did what any beast would do. He tried to grab the muzzle of the rifle in its mouth. At the same moment, my grandfather squeezed the trigger.
When any animal opens, its mouth it automatically comes in a straight line with.........
“Roll number 55, daydreaming again?” said the professor snapping me back to reality.
“I have been explaining about various scenarios possible regarding entry and exit wounds while you were sleeping. Sine you don’t need to hear it from me, perhaps you shall be so kind to explain to the class.”
“Certainly sir. You see class; it’s even possible for a dead body not to have any entry or exit wounds. That is when a bullet enters through one natural orifice and exits through another. For e.g. in through the mouth and out of the backside.”
The laughter was deafening.
The look on the professors face was as if he had been slapped in the face.
The leopard skin still adorns a wall in our family house and is the most intact trophy, free from all blemishes and holes.