A Tiger in the house - One more my favorite Short Story by Ruskin Bond
IMOTHY, THE TIGER-
CUB, WAS discovered by Grandfather on a hunting expedition in the Terai jungle near D...More details
A Tiger in the house - One more my favorite Short Story by Ruskin Bond
IMOTHY, THE TIGER-
CUB, WAS discovered by Grandfather on a hunting expedition in the Terai jungle near Dehra.
Grandfather was no shikari, but as he knew the forests of the Siwalik hills better than most people, he was persuaded to accompany the party—it consisted of several Very Important Persons from Delhi—to advise on the terrain and the direction the beaters should take once a tiger had been spotted.
The camp itself was sumptuous—seven large tents (one for each shikari), a dining-tent, and a number of servants' tents. The dinner was very good, as Grandfather admitted afterwards; it was not often that one saw hot-water plates, finger-glasses, and seven or eight courses, in a tent in the jungle! But that was how things were done in the days of the Viceroys .... There were also some fifteen elephants, four of them with howdahs for the shikaris, and the others specially trained for taking part in the beat.
The sportsmen never saw a tiger, nor did they shoot anything else, though they saw a number of deer, peacock, and wild boar. They were giving up all hope of finding a tiger, and were beginning to shoot at jackals, when Grandfather, strolling down the forest path at some distance from the rest of the party, discovered a little tiger about eighteen inches long, hiding among the intricate roots of a banyan tree. Grandfather picked him up, and brought him home after the camp had broken up. He had the distinction of being the only member of the party to have bagged any game, dead or alive.
At first the tiger cub, who was named Timothy by Grandmother, was brought up entirely on milk given to him in a feeding-bottle by our cook, Mahmoud. But the milk proved too rich for him, and he was put on a diet of raw mutton and cod liver oil, to be followed later by a more tempting diet of pigeons and rabbits.
Timothy was provided with two companions—Toto the monkey, who was bold enough to pull the young tiger by the tail, and then climb up the curtains if Timothy lost his temper; and a small mongrel puppy, found on the road by Grandfather.
At first Timothy appeared to be quite afraid of the puppy, and darted back with a spring if it came too near. He would make absurd dashes at it with his large forepaws, and then retreat to a ridiculously safe distance. Finally, he allowed the puppy to crawl on his back and rest there!
One of Timothy's favourite amusements was to stalk anyone who would play with him, and so, when I came to live with Grandfather, I became one of the tiger's favourites. With a crafty look in his glittering eyes, and his body crouching, he would creep closer and closer to me, suddenly making a dash for my feet, rolling over on his back and kicking with delight, and pretending to bite my ankles.
He was by this time the size of a full-grown retriever, and when I took him out for walks, people on the road would give us a wide berth. When he pulled hard on his chain, I had difficulty in keeping up with him. His favourite place in the house was the drawing-room, and he would make himself comfortable on the long sofa, reclining there with great dignity, and snarling at anybody who tried to get him off.
Timothy had clean habits, and would scrub his face with his paws exactly like a cat. He slept at night in the cook's quarters, and was always delighted at being let out by him in the morning.
'One of these days/ declared Grandmother in her prophetic manner, 'we are going to find Timothy sitting on Mahmoud's bed, and no sign of the cook except his clothes and shoes!'
Of course, it never came to that, but when Timothy was about six months old a change came over him; he grew steadily less friendly. When out for a walk with me, he would try to steal away to stalk a cat or someone's pet Pekinese. Sometimes at night we would hear frenzied cackling from the poultry
house, and in the morning there would be feathers lying all over the veranda. Timothy had to be chained up more often. And finally, when he began to stalk Mahmoud about the house with what looked like villainous intent, Grandfather decided it was time to transfer him to a zoo.The nearest zoo was at Lucknow, two hundred miles away. Reserving a first class compartment for himself and Timothy— no one would share a compartment with them—Grandfather took him to Lucknow where the zoo authorities were only too glad to receive as a gift a well-fed and fairly civilized tiger.
About six months later, when my grandparents were visiting relatives in Lucknow, Grandfather took the opportunity of calling at the zoo to see how Timothy was getting on. I was not there to accompany him, but I heard all about it when he returned to Dehra.Arriving at the zoo, Grandfather made straight for the particular cage in which Timothy had been interned. The tiger was there, crouched in a corner, full-grown and with a magnificent striped coat.
'Hello Timothy!' said Grandfather and, climbing the railing with ease, he put his arm through the bars of the cage.
The tiger approached the bars, and allowed Grandfather to put both hands around his head. Grandfather stroked the tiger's forehead and tickled his ear, and, whenever he growled, smacked him across the mouth, which was his old way of keeping him quiet.
He licked Grandfather's hands and only sprang away when a leopard in the next cage snarled at him. Grandfather 'shooed' the leopard away, and the tiger returned to lick his hands; but every now and then the leopard would rush at the bars, and the tiger would slink back to his corner.
A number of people had gathered to watch the reunion when a keeper pushed his way through the crowd and asked Grandfather what he was doing.
'I'm talking to Timothy/ said Grandfather. 'Weren't you here when I gave him to the zoo six months ago?'
'I haven't been here very long,' said the surprised keeper. 'Please continue your conversation. But I have never been able to touch him myself, he is always very bad tempered/
'Why don't you put him somewhere else?' suggested Grandfather. 'That leopard keeps frightening him. I'll go and see the Superintendent about it.'
Grandfather went in search of the Superintendent of the zoo, but found that he had gone home early; and so, after wandering about the zoo for a little while, he returned to Timothy's cage to say goodbye. It was beginning to get dark.
He had been stroking and slapping Timothy for about five minutes when he found another keeper observing him with some alarm. Grandfather recognized him as the keeper who had been there when Timothy had first come to the zoo.
'You remember me,' said Grandfather. 'Now why don't you transfer Timothy to another cage, away from this stupid leopard?''But—sir—' stammered the keeper, 'it is not your tiger.'
I know, I know/ said Grandfather testily. T realize he is no longer mine. But you might at least take a suggestion or two from me/
I remember your tiger very well/ said the keeper. 'He died two months ago/
'Died!' exclaimed Grandfather.
'Yes, sir, of pneumonia. This tiger was trapped in the hills only last month, and he is very dangerous!'
Grandfather could think of nothing to say. The tiger was still licking his arm, with increasing relish. Grandfather took what seemed to him an age to withdraw his hand from the cage.
With his face near the tiger's he mumbled, 'Goodnight, Timothy/ and giving the keeper a scornful look, walked briskly out of the zoo.Hide details
The Kitemaker - A Short Story by Ruskin Bond
THERE WAS BUT ONE tree in the street known as Gali Ram Nathan ancient banyan that had grown through the cracks of an abandoned mosque—and littl...More details
The Kitemaker - A Short Story by Ruskin Bond
THERE WAS BUT ONE tree in the street known as Gali Ram Nathan ancient banyan that had grown through the cracks of an abandoned mosque—and little Ali's kite had caught in its branches. The boy, barefoot and clad only in a torn shirt, ran along the cobbled stones of the narrow street to where his grandfather sat nodding dreamily in the sunshine of their back courtyard.
'Grandfather shouted the boy. 'My kite has gone!
The old man woke from his daydream with a start and, raising his head, displayed a beard that would have been white had it not been dyed red with mehendi leaves.
'Did the twine break?' he asked. to know that kite twine is not what it used to be.
'No, Grandfather, the kite is stuck in the banyan tree.
The old man chuckled. 'You have yet to learn how to fly a kite properly, my child. And I am too old to teach you, that's the pity of it. But you shall have another.
He had just finished making a new kite from bamboo paper and thin silk, and it lay in the sun, firming up. It was a pale pink kite, with a small green tail. The old man handed it to Ali, and the boy raised himself on his toes and kissed his grandfather's hollowed-out cheek.
T will not lose this one he said. 'This kite will fly like a bird. And he turned on his heels and skipped out of the courtyard.
The old man remained dreaming in the sun. His kite shop was gone, the premises long since sold to a junk dealer; but he still made kites, for his own amusement and for the benefit of his grandson, Ali. Not many people bought kites these days. Adults disdained them, and children preferred to spend their money at the cinema. Moreover, there were not many open spaces left for the flying of kites. The city had swallowed up the open grassland that had stretched from the old fort's walls to the river bank.
But the old man remembered a time when grown men flew kites, and great battles were fought, the kites swerving and swooping in the sky, tangling with each other until the string of one was severed. Then the defeated but liberated kite would float away into the blue unknown. There was a good deal of betting, and money frequently changed hands.
Kite-flying was then the sport of kings, and the old man remembered how the Nawab himself would come down to the riverside with his retinue to participate in this noble pastime. There was time, then, to spend an idle hour with a gay, dancing strip of paper. Now everyone hurried, in a heat of hope, and delicate things like kites and daydreams were trampled underfoot.
He, Mehmood the kitemaker, had in the prime of his life been well known throughout the city. Some of his more elaborate kites once sold for as much as three or four rupees each.
At the request of the Nawab he had once made a very special kind of kite, unlike any that had been seen in the district. It consisted of a series of small, very light paper disks trailing on a thin bamboo frame. To the end of each disk he fixed a sprig of grass, forming a balance on both sides. The surface of the foremost disk was slightly convex, and a fantastic face was painted on it, having two eyes made of small mirrors. The disks, decreasing in size from head to tail, assumed an undulatory form and gave the kite the appearance of a crawling serpent. It required great skill to raise this cumbersome device from the ground, and only Mehmood could manage it.
Everyone had heard of the 'Dragon Kite' that Mehmood had built, and word went round that it possessed supernatural powers. A large crowd assembled in the open to watch its first public launching in the presence of the Nawab.
At the first attempt it refused to leave the ground. The disks made a plaintive, protesting sound, and the sun was trapped in the little mirrors, making of the kite a living, complaining creature. Then the wind came from the right direction, and the Dragon Kite soared into the sky, wriggling its way higher and higher, the sun still glinting in its devil-eyes. And when it went very high, it pulled fiercely on the twine, and Mehmood's young sons had to help him with the reel. Still the kite pulled, determined to be free, to break loose, to live a life of its own. And eventually it did so. The twine snapped, the kite leaped away toward the sun, sailing on heavenward until it was lost to view. It was never found again, and Mehmood wondered afterwards if he made too vivid, too living a thing of the great kite. He did not make another like it. Instead he presented to the Nawab a musical kite, one that made a sound like a violin when it rose in the air.
Those were more leisurely, more spacious days. But the Nawab had died years ago, and his descendants were almost as poor as Mehmood himself. Kitemakers, like poets, once had their patrons; but no one knew Mehmood, simply because there were too many people in the Gali, and they could not be bothered with their neighbours.
When Mehmood was younger and had fallen sick, everyone in the neighbourhood had come to ask after his health; but now, when his days were drawing to a close, no one visited him. Most of his old friends were dead and his sons had grown up: one was working in a local garage and the other, who was in Pakistan at the time of the Partition, had not been able to rejoin his relatives.
The children who had bought kites from him ten years ago were now grown men, struggling for a living; they did not have time for the old man and his memories. They had grown up in a swiftly changing and competitive world, and they looked at the old kitemaker and the banyan tree with the same indifference.
Both were taken for granted—permanent fixtures that were of no concern to the raucous, sweating mass of humanity that surrounded them. No longer did people gather under the banyan tree to discuss their problems and their plans; only in the summer months did a few seek shelter from the fierce sun.
But there was the boy, his grandson. It was good that Mehmood's son worked dose by, for it gladdened the old man's heart to watch the small boy at play in the winter sunshine, growing under his eyes like a young and well-nourished sapling putting forth new leaves each day. There is a great affinity between trees and men. We grow at much the same pace, if we are not hurt or starved or cut down. In our youth we are resplendent creatures, and in our declining years we stoop a little, we remember, we stretch our brittle limbs in the sun, and then, with a sigh, we shed our last leaves.
Mehmood was like the banyan, his hands gnarled and twisted like the roots of the ancient tree. Ali was like the young mimosa planted at the end of the courtyard. In two years both he and the tree would acquire the strength and confidence of their early youth.
The voices in the street grew fainter, and Mehmood wondered if he was going to fall asleep and dream, as he so often did, of a kite so beautiful and powerful that it would resemble the great white bird of the Hindus—Garuda, God Vishnu's famous steed. He would like to make a wonderful new kite for little Ali. He had nothing else to leave the boy.
He heard Ali's voice in the distance, but did not realize that the boy was calling him. The voice seemed to come from very far away.
Ali was at the courtyard door, asking if his mother had as yet returned from the bazaar. When Mehmood did not answer, the boy came forward repeating his question. The sunlight was slanting across the old man's head, and a small white butterfly rested on his flowing beard. Mehmood was silent; and when Ali put his small brown hand on the old man's shoulder, he met with no response. The boy heard a faint sound, like the rubbing of marbles in his pocket.
Suddenly afraid, Ali turned and moved to the door, and then ran down the street shouting for his mother. The butterfly left the old man's beard and flew to the mimosa tree, and a sudden gust of wind caught the torn kite and lifted it in the air, carrying it far above the struggling city into the blind blue sky.Hide details
Ruskin Bond was born in colonial India on May 19, 1934 at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh. His parents were Edith Clerke and Aubrey Bond. He spent his childhood in Jamnagar, Dehradun and Shimla. His pa...More details
Ruskin Bond was born in colonial India on May 19, 1934 at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh. His parents were Edith Clerke and Aubrey Bond. He spent his childhood in Jamnagar, Dehradun and Shimla. His parents separated ways when he was a child and he went to live with his mother who remarried. He went to study at Bishop Cotton School in Shimla. He spent a quiet and solitary childhood; however he spent a lot of time reading and his father egged him on to write on nature. He understood his calling as a writer really early in life and once he passed out school, he decided to pursue his career as a writer. The Indian Council for Child Education awarded him the Sahitya Academy Award for his role in the growth of children’s literature in India for his story, Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. His story, The Flight of Pigeons was made into a Merchant Ivory film, Junoon. He has also won the Padma Shri.
Ruskin Bond left for London after school. He lived there for four years doing odd jobs and he was homesick. He was 17 when his first book The Room on theRoof was published and it gained instant popularity and recognition. He won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and returned to India and has lived in the hills here ever since. This book was also made into a BBC television series. Soon after, other writings followed such as: Vagrantsin the Valley, Rain in the Mountains, Delhi Is Not Far, The Best of Ruskin Bond, Ghost Stories from the Raj, A Season of Ghosts, A Face in the Dark, and others. His stories reveal and define his love for the Himalayas; his stories revolve around Indians with their idiosyncrasies and warmth. He has dabbled in paranormal writings too as he has always been interested in the paranormal stories from the days of the Raj.
Ruskin Bond’sstories have also been into the school syllabi of different boards. Most of his popular short stories include The Night Train at Deoli, Time Stops at Shamli, The Eyes Have it and Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra. His novels include: Room on the Roof, Scenes from a Writer's Life, A Flight ofPigeons, Landour Days - A writers Journal, The Sensualist, The Road To TheBazar, The Panther's Moon, Once Upon A Monsoon Time and The India I Love. Recently, his short story, Susanna's SevenHusbands was made into a Vishal Bharadwaj film titled 7 Khoon Maaf starring Priyamka Chopra. He made a cameo appearance in the film.Hide details