As his village he did enter, an animated discussion seemed to be on at the village centre. Something made him pause and he walked up to learn the cause of all this excitement which had many brought. Banaban Besra, who worked as a forest guard, was talking excitedly and working quite hard to add effect with his dramatic gesticulation to what exclaimed from him in articulation.
“And I tell you,” Banaban Besra exclaimed, “if I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would have it utterly disclaimed!” To Banaban Besra Narayan Sambhan went close. Noticing him, Banaban Besra’s voice further rose “Narayan Baba, even you I am sure would not have seen anything so amazingly pure!” Narayan Sambhan’s sixth sense was a-stir. He lifted his hand, “Okay, okay, alright, do for a moment demur. Surely, something absolutely remarkable you witnessed. Now tell me all of it, what you saw, slowly and in detail,” Narayan said, as much ado of patting Banaban Besra he made.
Banaban Besra’s chest swelled. He paused dramatically, much revelled. Gathering his breath, he relaunched to expostulate; but before he could, a young boy did ejaculate, “Narayan Baba, he saw a tiger last night taking on a whole herd of elephant’s might!” Narayan Sambhan to this young boy turned, “Really? That does sound most unusual unheard. About it, I too want dearly to hear. Yes, Banaban when, where and how this did occur?” “Narayan Baba, we were last night at this forest observation post newly built.” Narayan Sambhan nodded. Yes, the same he had heartily applauded. Someone in the forest department had done a good job and had observation posts put up at all sensitive spot. On secure trees of suitable height had been built they and were well camouflaged and strategically lay. “This observation post at the big pool in north keeps an eye steady and strong where the trail coming from the north reaches this pool at Jharkhi pass mouth,” Banaban Besra continued aloud.
“A good lot of you this pool must be knowing,” he added, his face glowing. Quite a few of them nodded their head, and tokens of agreement were said and met. So, when this tiger was roaring last night there were then witnesses to it, it looked like. For, that would be Jharkhi pass yes, as indeed had been his own guess, where last night the tiger had been roaring in fashion peculiar! “Yes, that pool we know well. So what happened there Banaban, please tell !” Narayan asked, as he tried to keep the growing excitement out of his voice. “Narayan Baba, at this pool late in the night, a big heard of elephants arrived. Around the pool they spread, drinking and playing with much merriment. Moonlight there was plenty and everything we could see clearly. and a good time we were having watching them! “There wasn’t much time left for dawn to come when the tuskers – sorry, not only the tuskers but nearly all the elephants – suddenly much agitated did become. “They looked to be on alert high and had turned to face the big pool’s other side; – where emerged the bottom of the Jharkhi pass. Then four, five tuskers large – circling the pool with their trunks coiled – went over to the other side of the pool and stood poised, in the direction of the Jharkhi pass facing. There was some animal or something coming down the pass which seemed to have drawn their attention and had them in such state of agitation.” Noticing that he had everyone’s attention deep, Banaban Besra’s enthusiasm took a leap. “The tuskers were agitated and had taken up a position, forming a line blocking the path in opposition to whatever was coming down the pass in supposition.” Even more villagers by this time did assemble. A story or any incident of elephants ensemble always aroused interest great and ample.
“Now Narayan Baba, you know very well that it is only the tiger, the jungle’s wonder that can put the elephants in such disturbed spell. All agog with excitement we were. There was no doubt whatever that down the Jharkhi pass, a tiger was heading their way and in readiness and preparation, the tuskers stood and lay. “Sure enough, soon, out of the mouth of the pass, walked down an absolutely magnificent tiger large. It stopped, watching the tuskers. To drive away the tiger, the tuskers moved quickly, when the tiger roared abruptly! “What a roar it was! It shook the dirt out of the stars and the mountains out of their stance! And, Narayan Baba, I tell you, it made me nearly do potty in my pants!” The younger lot in the crowd tittered merrily while the older ones smiled understandably. Those who had heard the tiger roaring in proximity knew its effect well and truly! “It was an extraordinarily determined tiger. This tiger, Narayan Baba, with its roar made it clear that he wanted the tuskers out of its path. The tuskers had stopped, unsure now and in unstart. As there it stood framed in the moonlight! He lifted his head high and roared ferociously mighty! The most terrifying sight I have ever seen, by almighty!” Banaban Besra then stopped to exhale deeply. Village dogs, extra curious, afoot, strove to be nearer to where Banaban stood; when some kids pounced in, shooing them away with gusto and much accompanied din. Some passing by on bicycles had stopped and joined in. The kids and the dogs in no uncertain term were told to shut up and not to disturb; for Banaban Besra had opened his mouth again, to further to his story add and gain! “But, Narayan Baba, the tiger was wounded. He was not limping nor any such sounded, but there was no mistaking that he was in pain for each step that it took was in deep agony engrained.
Yes, that’s it. It was walking like, how would I say, like one who is suffering terribly about; though his injury we neither could see or make out.” Quite likely, he had been shot at, the thought to Narayan Sambhan came swiftly at that; the bullet causing an injury internal, but he didn’t say anything particular. bathing us in sweat from top to nether. What terrifying roars they were, I won’t forget them to my dying day! And then, Narayan Baba, the tuskers gave way! Amazing! These tuskers were big, in their prime and of them there were four or five, joined head to head almost in a line. But the line broke and the tuskers moved away, – to the tiger giving way!
“Slowly the tiger continued to head, roaring deafeningly still unafraid. It then entered the pool on its other side and lay there for some time as loath to get out of it. The elephants had all retreated along with and now to one side of the pool did gather, with the tuskers forming a line in the front again quickly, but otherwise much subdued rather; as they now watched the tiger silently.” Silence now total prevailed, as everyone by Banaban’s tale was in hushed attention regaled. “Then slowly, very slowly, out this tiger came on the other side of the pool again. The elephants turned, facing him all the while, but they remained subdued and silent quite, as if struck too by this knee buckling sight! “The tiger, not even bothering to look at them, headed in our way where, frozen in our spots lame, we watched breathless tame. But then turning towards the east his progress had been and after some time could no longer be seen.” East? Narayan Sambhan was thoughtful.
“And Narayan Baba, when he was heading towards us for a while, we could clearly see his face that time and I tell you what unusual stripes he had on his face! Thick, dark stripes criss-crossing strangest great! That made him look, far more fearsome than any met!” Thick stripes criss-crossing the face of the tiger! Taking a deep breath, Narayan looked up at the sun. That was the cub, the first one, when seven years back as had been, on the bank of that stream along the hill face he had seen! “Yes Banaban,” Narayan Sambhan put in, “nothing like that I have ever seen. What an absolutely most memorable spectacle, I’m sure very few to witness such have been able. An entire herd of elephants with tuskers you say for a lone tiger retreating and making such way!” Banaban Besra, his face glistening in sweat, beamed at this compliment paid. But as all again then excitedly chattered, Narayan Sambhan quietly slipped away from those gathered. So the cub, now an adult tiger in its prime had come back last night. And yes, Banaban was right. The tiger was critically wounded alright. Because of the wound, so difficult it be would to take a longer, different path to avoid where the elephants stood and undoubtedly then it would choose the shortest route. Since the herd of elephants on this shortest path lay, he had to get them out of the way. Where would it intend to go in this wounded condition so? Outside his house for a long time in the evening, Narayan Sambhan sat quiet and meditative. He didn’t eat anything and slept pitifully;
waking repeatedly and uncommonly restive.