My dad and a group of his friends were laughing in a joyful mood and on seeing me the laughter faded away. I could see a creature lying encircled by the group. My sister was already there with her panic stricken face. Anand one of my dad’s friends told me that, my sister and me would be the fortunate people to get the lion’s share today. Still half a sleep, I was wondering at the creature that resembled a monkey with a black fur on its body, golden brown fur on its head and had a long black tail. On seeing our terrified face, my dad told that he shot this Mandhi (Nilgiri Langur) during the last night’s hunting trip in the mathi kettan shola forest. He told me that, Mandhi lives in the shola forests that are rich in medicinal and aromatic vegetation and lives on herbs, nuts and fruits that have high medicinal value. Hence, its flesh, blood and the cud are known to be the panacea for many diseases. Now, Rajaiah took a knife and a container cut the Mandhi’s throat and filled the container with the oozing blood. We were offered a glass of blood that was fresh and warm. I gulped it and extended the tumbler to be refilled, while my sister was satisfied with one tumbler. Everyone laughed and said one tumbler is more than enough. We were instructed to jog till the golf course in order for the blood to get digested. When we came home after an hour of jogging, the group was gone and my dad was getting ready for the day. My mom was engaged in preparing meat to be cooked, while my granny was treating a big portion of the meat with salt and turmeric paste. We helped her to dry them in the sunlight and then hang them on the cross cabled strings inside the chimney for uppu kandam (salt-cured meat). On seeing my enthusiasm, my dad promised to take me along with him during the next hunting trip.
It happened the next month, when my dad planned for an over-night stay at a work site 40 KMs from Kodaikanal. We stayed in the jeep till 11:00 PM and then sneaked into the thick pine forest. After walking a while, we enter a shola forest and the site supervisor made a bed out of the dried leaves and spreads blanket for us to rest. We remained there for a very long time without uttering a single word. I was instructed even to keep the breathing very low. I was growing impatient as the time grew and it was already dawn. I was almost fainting with sleep when a thundering noise shook my senses to life. I saw my dad and his smile told me that he had shot something. Slowly we moved towards the direction where the shot was fired and near a stream we found a spotted dear lying motionless. It was a great moment of delight after waiting in the fierce cold throughout the night. We took the head and the skin for making stuffed deer (taxidermy) or a trophy and the shoulders for meat. This was the first and the last time I went on a hunting trip. However, every vacation was marked with relishing some new animal. The list grew like Nilgiri Langur, Spotted Deer, Wild Rabbits, Ibex, Kelai Aadu (Wild Goat), Royal Pigeon, Flying Squirrel etc.
In the following years, I rarely visited home during vacations. During one visit, dad told me that hunting as a game has died out and it is considered a crime as the animals dwelling in Palani hills are being declared as endangered species. The double barrel gun that was presented to my grandfather by the Rajah of Sivaganga for having shot a tiger rested in the attic, only to be taken out for license renewal and over-hauling. When my father died, it was surrendered at the collectorate. I was not eligible to hold a gun license as I was a minor at that time and my uncle was not interested anything else but his business. Later, in an effort to recover the gun, I discovered that the gun was auctioned to an arms dealer named Veeramani of Dindigul, as there was no one to claim it.
As a mark of remembrance, I capitalize every opportunity to shoot animals with my camera and have caught many that my dad has failed to catch with his gun. Shooting them in the camera seems to be more pleasurable as the snaps become valued possessions. All the game, big and small continues; but the guns have been replaced by the cameras.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Monday, July 17, 2006
The morning sleep snuggling in side the warmth of the blanket to counter the cold winter of Kodaikanal was an ecstasy by itself. That too when you are back from the hostel to spend your vacation, no one would bother to wake you up until 10’o clock when you are woken by the aroma of the coffee cup held by you mom. But that day was an exception. To my surprise, my mom woke me up at 6’0 clock. Though unwilling to peep out of the blanket, I had to force myself out of the blanket as my mom informed me that my dad wants me at the backyard. I jumped out of the blanket and threw a shawl around my head to cover the ears from the prickly cold of the backyard, which is an extension of the field.