Friday, 25 November 2011

The princess, the panther and the pain.

"Very unusual", said the Dr. "Doesn't sound like a heart attack; in fact it doesn't sound like anything I've ever seen. We must investigate further. What brought it on?"


"Next time you visit India, You must visit my factory. Your friend has made it big buddy", My friend had said.
So here i was, sitting in a chauffeur driven BMW ("Seven series. Double woofer surround sound leather seats. Charger for laptop, iPhone and DVD player. Plus paid extra to have it delivered before my neighbour could have one", he had proudly informed me.)
" It is an upcoming industrial area. Got the land really cheap, there is a big govt. incentive for industrialisation. The whole area measures thousands of acres; you'll see."
It was massive, there were factories, pipelines, gas lines, roads, transport links. Accommodation for workers and engineers. Schools for the workers children, hospital, roads, Colleges; all in all it was a town in itself.
My friends factory had a huge metal gate, a driveway, conference facilities, a plush directors office and many employees. He gave me a guided tour, introduced me to his employees, and went into a lengthy ramble about turnover, bottom line, expansion plans.
But I was looking out of the window at the hill across the highway. At the castle atop the hill, actually.
"Oh how silly of me to have forgotten", Said my friend. "Doesn't that belong to a distant relative of yours? Haven't you been there a few times as a kid? What was it like from the inside? " On and on he goes with his list of questions. But I am ooblivious to him and my surroundings.
I am inside the big formal hall inside the castle, a child looking at the hunting trophies proudly displayed and each one of them a work of art, hand made by the fabled Dutch taxidermist Van Ingen.
Each trophy has a story that goes with it, fondly narrated by the king and the other members of the royal family. Stories of his ancestors, friends and family. Stories of an era long gone and never to return. Of men of a creed never to set foot on the face of this earth again. I am listening to one such story.......
She was a princess. Not only in the way a daughter is a princess to her parents but in that her father was actually a king. She was brought up in the castle. She had a nanny, a team of servants, ponies, pets, personal assistants and much more. She'd had the best education money could buy. She was also pretty, intelligent, sophisticated and cultured. But there was something which disturbed the king slightly.
She was exposed to the outdoors from birth. Riding, shikar- hunting and shooting, fishing, picnics weren't new to her and she had nothing against it but she herself did not like to shoot. In any other family it would have been fine but in this illustrious family, warrior kings forged by fire, where men rode horses as soon as they could walk and shot big game at 8, it was , shall we say, slightly out of character.
"My dear daughter", said the king, "what is this aversion that you have towards shooting? Everyone in your family, even your mother is a great shot and a superb shikari; yet you haven't showed the slightest inclination ever to learn to shoot"
"Father", replied the princess, "I know my  family's love for the outdoors. All my siblings are now accomplished shots but I don't know why, I've never been attracted to it. However, since it is so important to you, I will shoot, just once, for you."
This was music to the kings ears. He lovingly brought out his London best rifle, loaded it with cartridges and proceeded to teach his daughter to shoot. However since it was more to humour the king than a target shoot, she decided to shoot it into the forest beneath the hill. So she stood at her window balcony of her room in the castle, safely pointed the rifle towards dense wild forest below and did what her father had taught her. Rifle butt in the shoulder pocket, cheek on the stock, relax, breath in, no need to line up the sights as theres no target, and gently squeeze the trigger.


"Throw a stone" is an expression used widely in India. It is used to denote something very common or present in great numbers. For instance:
Throw a stone in Texas and it will land on a republican.
Throw a stone in Afghanistan and it will land on an AK-47
Of course it is supposed to be a hyperbole intended to convey the meaning and it was with same intention the shikaris of yore used to say of the forests of Central Provinces of India that throw a stone there and it will land on a big cat.  But was it actually a hyperbole?
But I digress. Where was I?

Yes... so BANG went the rifle and this was followed a second later by a loud blood curdling roar. Then nothing.
The king ordered his gamekeeper to go investigate what happened and down into the forest he went with his assistant trackers. They returned a few hours later, their faces a picture of jubilation.
"Congratulations rajkumariji-princess!" they all greeted her. "on bagging this magnificent panther!!"
Thus the princess who eschewed guns became the only shikari in the world to have a 100% record of killing a dangerous game with every bullet she fired in her life!!!


"Buddy", I am jolted back to the present by my friend. "So how did you like my factory? What do you think of the industrial estate?"
I am quickly judging the distance of the castle-hill to the factory and calculating the ballistic trajectory of a bullet fired by an express rifle.
The leopard should have been shot not far from this plush office ("wi-fi, Hd projector, fax and satellite television", the manager proudly pointed out)
"I am getting the mining contract", my friend rambled on. "We are going to have a big mine and export to Europe."
"Its really great", I said feebly.
And that is when the pain started. It stabbed at my heart and brought tears to my eyes.


"Good news", said the Dr. "all reports are normal. All's well and nothing to worry about."
"All's well and nothing to worry about", I repeated. Surely if that's the case then why am I having this pain?

The majestic castle,  a slient spectator for centuries, once standing over miles of dense jungles is now a moot sentinel for the massive industrial area.

The princess is no more now.
The panthers and tigers, once present in enough numbers to fall to a random stray bullet, are critically endangered species.
The pain is still there.
And they cant understand why

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