A small boy was going with his father, through a forest, one afternoon. Both of them were in a relaxed mood and enjoying the beauty of nature. All of a sudden, a tiger emerged from the bushes, yawning widely as if he had just eaten a very sumptuous meal. Its eyes were half open and it seemed that he was looking for a comfortable place to take his afternoon siesta. And he found the soft ground of the path just up to his taste. He bent down and laid his hind legs parallel to the ground. A cool breeze rustled the leaves of the trees around them which would have been very pleasant if just now a tiger had not blocked their way. But the tiger still had not noticed them now that its eyes were closed. Terror was writ large on the father’s face. His face, gone pale white, the father cringed at what he what he was looking at. The son, on the other hand, widened his eyes with curiosity at the tiger, which would have frightened the living daylights out of most of the children at his age. He tugged at the end of his father’s kurta and asked, ‘Father, what is that thing?’ Had it been a statue at their local museum, the father would have liked nothing more than to reply that the tiger was a monster that carries away naughty children. He would have just loved the look of terror on his son’s childishly innocent face.
But now was not the moment. The father pulled his son close enough and said, ‘We have to run now.’ The child looked just as offended as a photographer pulled back from his camera while shooting a bewitching picture. But he nodded in response, though reluctantly. And they ran, as far as their legs could carry them, away from the tiger. But suddenly, the ground gave way and they fell deep down. After they hit the bottom, the father realized that this was probably a pit dug by the villagers as a precaution against the tiger. The father instinctively grabbed his son and began climbing out of the pit, holding on to the stones protruding out of the side he was climbing. Just then, he saw a feline shape prowling around the pit. It had an orange coat, black stripes………
The father’s eyes widened with shock as understanding dawned upon him. It was the tiger! It was still sleepy and hadn’t seen them. It just stopped above the father and shook itself awake. The father’s hand slipped and fell into the darkness of the pit. The last thing he remembered was something silvery float over him, human voices and the hard ground of the pit.
The father woke up. He blinked his eyes several times and looked around. He was in his house. His wife was sitting by his side on a stool. He suddenly blurted out, ‘Where is Lalla(his son)?! Did the tiger hurt him?’
‘He is in his room, sleeping. By the way, which tiger are you talking about?’, replied the wife, unnerved at her husband’s sudden outburst.
‘Didn’t I go into the forest with Lalla and escape from a tiger? Didn’t he tell you anything about that?’ , the father had not quite recovered from the shock of having faced a tiger.
The wife seemed to be undergoing some deep internal struggle. The muscles in her face were working hard. Finally, she said, ‘No, he hasn’t. He has been sleeping since morning.’ She looked at him with an inscrutable expression on her face. Was it pity? Or was it sadness? The father couldn’t make out. The wife silently left the room, leaving the father free to his thoughts. He shifted his attention towards his clothes. He was wearing the same kurta as he was wearing in the dream, as he now considered it, with the tiger. Then something shiny on the kurta caught his eye. It would not take an expert to figure out that….. That they were, white strands of hair, from an animal. His mind circled and finally figuring it all out……..
He fainted of shock.