A Tiger Story

A tiger was seen roaming Secunderabad at 6.30 a.m. exactly. He had come out of the forest outside the old British cantonment. Malu, a gardner's boy, 10, was attacked. He gave the tiger the slip. A 60-year old woman was then mauled. It was 7.00 a.m. She sustained bad injuries on her face and chest. Her screams frightened the tiger who jumped the wall of a bungalow and landed in the walled garden of railway officer Subramaniam. Subbu's 11-year old daughter saw the tiger's reflection in her bathroom-mirror through the window. She let out a scream. This frightened the tiger into rushing inside the house. He tore past the 11-year old girl's eight-year old sister brushing her teeth on the verandah. The tiger made straight for the guest-room and hid under the sofa. It was 7.30.

Mr Subramaniam, railway officer, called the Nampally police-station just rumbling awake.

- Hello! A tiger! No, Sir, we are not a zoo. We are the police.

So, Mr Subramaniam called the zoo and started growling like a tiger.

- An uncaged tiger? No, Sir, we deal only in caged ones.

Meanwhile Subbu's neighbours had managed to gather at the grilled window of his ground-floor guest-room to look at the tiger. The beast leapt at the window bringing down the curtain, the curtain-rod and a hanging potted plant with it.

Someone offered drugged beef to the king of the jungle. The beast took one sniff and went back to his place under the sofa.

The zoo finally sent an officer with a dart gun. This enraged the beast and he damaged the door. The second dart however hit home. They prodded the tiger with staves, rods, bamboo sticks into a cage and hauled the now quiet beast to the zoo. It was mid-morning by now.

Part II

A tiger sleeps
In the moonlight
Contemplates his claws
Innocent of carnage he wrought.

Malu slept soundly, roundly lauded as a tiger-hero, and thought he was rid of the tiger till he dreamt of ways and ways of catching the tiger. He didn't have to run away. He caught the tiger by the tail (impractical). He caught him face to face (impossible). He rode into the city on the tiger's back. He was given a good meal for that. That made eight ways of catching a tiger: a dream-tiger and not a real one.

So now actually there were two tigers, or three if you count the newspaper account, or four if you count this account too. How many tigers are really there? And what about the woman-mauler? We forgot him!

Just then it was Moharram, the Shia Moslem lament for Ali, Lion of God. Men marked in tiger-stripes wearing loin-cloths roamed Hyderabad, Secunderabad's twin-city. So this was the last type of tiger. Man had become Lion of God.

What is the use of this story? What is the use of another tiger-story? What is the use of any story at all? There will always be tigers, there will always be cages, there will always be stories. This story was going to be a tiger. It turned out to be a cage.

I entered the cage and shut the door upon myself. I drew strokes like this [ | | | | ] upon a white space resembling tiger-stripes which also resemble the bars of a cage like words and the empty spaces between them are the markings of a meaning. The cage had become the tiger.

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