“There is a tiger in my room ! And he is my room mate.”
It was my long time friend Vinay who stormed into my room this morning announcing these very words. I was in deep sleep just before and wasn’t sure if i was awake even now. You don’t get to hear about metamorphosis these days, let alone real life incidents.
“Vinay, how the hell did you get into my house ? Go home. You are drunk”
“I found the key above your door. Man, you have got to listen to me. I am not drunk. There is a tiger in my room, and he is talking. English ! He claims to be my room-mate . In fact he knows everything about my room-mate. I strongly suspect he ate my room mate.
“Dude, you are panting and delirious. Sit down and relax for a minute.” I offered him a chair. “Let me get you some water.” I walked towards the kitchen. Somehow i am reminded of Life of Pi story.
Vinay grabbed the glass of water from my hands and gulped it down in seconds. Apparently he had run all the way from his house to mine.
I washed my face and made us some coffee. “Here, take this coffee. Now tell me in detail. What are you talking about ?”
“Ok listen then. Yesterday night i was at my friend’s place drinking till 3 am. I was pretty drunk when i got home. So drunk that i don’t remember unlocking my door or going to the bed. I got up this morning and walked to the bathroom to wash my face. As i was walking past the other room, i saw a huge yellow-orange form. Knowing my roomie, i assumed it was a stuffed toy that he bought to gift his girl friend. Until he called out my name that is. That was the first i have heard a tiger say “Vinay”. As funny as it sounds, it wasn’t. I freaked the hell out, but just managed to close the room before it got to me.
“Vinay, I am sorry if i freaked you out. I am Jai, your room-mate.” It said in a growly voice.”I am already very scared and have no idea what happened. Please be with me.” It continued. I was baffled to hear the english, but since i assumed i was dreaming, i talked back.
“Listen” I told it, my heart beating like drums. “I don’t know what you want., but please don’t hurt me. Who are you and what have you done to Jai ?”
It did look distressed and restless, but here is a moral from some old stories. You NEVER approach a tiger even if it talks flawless english and asks you for forgiveness. All you do is focus. That is a tiger in front of you, not a repenting sinner. At any cost, i kept my distance and made sure the door was locked. I even pushed the table and a shelf in front of the door.
“Listen tiger”, I said as I didn’t feel like calling it Jai. “I am hoping that i am still asleep and will wake up any moment now.”
“Vinay, listen to me please” It pleaded. “You are not drunk, nor are you asleep. Please believe me. I am the same roomie who has been staying with you for the past 7 years. I too am clueless like you. I have been awake since 6 am. Imagine my horror when i woke up at 6 am to wash my face and saw, well, this.” It said pointing to its face. My gaze went towards its sharp claws. Sharp enough to tear me into shreds.I shuddered at the very thought.
“I had the shock of my life.” It went on. “I have only heard of magic and witchcraft, that too in mythical stories, where such transformations happen. Lucky that i am able to talk though. In those stories, the animals cannot talk. Had i not convinced you, i think you would have got me killed”
“I am still not convinced Jai” i told, still in shock. “And I don’t think i am going to be convinced”
“Ok here is the thing that will convince you. How about the incident where both of us tried to grab a copy of the exam question paper ? We were forced to run because the guard spotted us and we ran until we fell into a pool of dirt. We had to walk back in our underwear. I don’t think anyone other than you and I know about this.”
My god, he was right. That was an embarrassing moment from our college days. Only we knew about it. I felt awkward now.
“Jai, what happened man ?” I asked “What do we do now ? I am sure there is something that triggered such a morphic change in you. Did you drink anything like a magic potion or something, you know, like in movies ?
“Don’t make fun of me man. I feel very heavy and itchy with all this fur. I am damn hungry as well.”
“I don’t like that hungry look in your eyes, i am hoping you are not a man-eater yet. Right ?”
For a minute i actually saw the angry look Jai used to have when he was, you know, human.
“Alright. Listen, i ll go get some meat for you. Do you feel like eating meat or do you want it cooked.”
“Get me anything. I don’t care.”
“OK i will be back in a few minutes. No matter what you do, do not yawn or talk loudly. Everything you do is a growl. Understood ?” Jai nodded and i left to buy the meat.
“After i left him there, i ran to you as fast as i can. I don’t think i can handle this alone. I definitely need your help.” Saying this, Vinay went back to kitchen for another jug of water. I stood there, perplexed by the story i had just heard from Vinay.
“Bloody awesome”, i thought to myself.
“Vinay, we need to leave right now to your place. I need to see your tiger turned roomie. I have to see this miracle” I was very excited, not to see a tiger, but to hear it speak english. That was a first for me.
“*The life force comes and dwells in a body for a while. While therein, it experiences infancy, childhood, youth, and old age, and then, upon death, passes eventually to a new body. Changes such as death pertain to a body, not the Soul. The wise person does not get caught up in the delusion that he or she is this body.*”
Although i have read this statement from the Bhagavad Gita numerous times, i would never have perceived the impact it would have on my life. I was going to see this statement in effect in real life, when he was alive. A real bizarre phenomenon.
We reached Vinay’s place in about half an hour. We had to stop on the way to buy some food for the tiger. It was morning, but there was restaurant which served meat. We managed to get 2 kilos of chicken tikka and some Mutton pepper.
“I wonder if Jai would like this food. It used to be his favourite dish” Vinay spoke, first time after the silent walking session till the restaurant, as he reached for the door. As i reached near the door, i could sense a rush of excitement in me. We opened the door quietly, making sure no one noticed, and closed it behind us. Vinay took me to the room and opened the window of the room.
I can vouch that i have never seen a sight like this in my life. The thing lying there was about 6 foot long and weighed approximately about 220 Kgs, i guess, looking at the dimensions. A real fully grown tiger. It had small pieces of torn cloth tangled in its hands and legs, probably the shirt and trousers he wore the previous day. The entire body glowed orange, with asymmetric white or cream stripes passing through its face and body.
“Jai, this is my friend. I know him from childhood. You can trust him.”
Jai turned to look at me. Its eyes glowed, even in that dim light of the room.
“Hey man. Whats up ?” Those were the first words i heard. A real life speaking tiger. I tried to hide my excitement, but couldn’t manage it well.
“Hey Jai, we got some food for you. Why don’t you eat that before we talk more.”
Jai stared at the package.
“Well, give it to me then. I am starving.” It said.
Vinay looked hesitant. “How do i know you won’t harm me ?”
“Here, i will turn towards the window and place my hands between the grill. All you need to do is open the door, place the package and slam it back again. Alright ? I promise, i won’t hurt you.” Saying this, he moved towards to the window, away from the door and clasped the grill in a way that looked like he was chained to window.
Vinay opened the door, pushed the package towards Jai and closed the door. He looked at the package for a second, tore it open and dug his claws into the meat. In about 2 minutes, the meat with the package was gone. He was licking his claws. Apparently tigers like indian chicken delicacies.
Vinay was still scared. I, on the other hand, was excited. The concept of a man turning into a tiger was too good to be true. Notwithstanding the turmoil Jai was going through, i had questions to ask him. I wanted to look at it in a philosophical way. The statement from the Gita was still ringing in my mind. It wasn’t what happened until now, but what would happen now on, that mattered to me. If a man turned into a tiger, it was a new life for him, even before his human death. He had shed his old self and moved to a new one with the knowledge of the transformation fresh in his mind. How would this change in him progress ? How would Jai cope with the change. I do not expect him to turn back into a human being soon. If he does, its fine because he already knows the way of the human beings. If he doesn’t, then what ? More questions in my mind now.
I went back to the window. Jai felt a little more relaxed now. I felt like i could ask all my questions now.
“Jai,” i started, interrupting his thoughts “Lets not waste time worrying how things happened. Have you thought about what you should do next ?”
“What do you mean what should i do next ? I need to figure out how to turn back into myself. That is what i should do next.”
“Look, i know its hard on you. Unless a miracle happens, we know its gonna be tough to turn you back into a human. What i am telling is, Vinay and I need to figure out how we can hide you from people till you turn back into yourself. You know you are a tiger and tigers have not been domesticated yet. People can turn cruel any minute. That can cause you harm. We need to guarantee your safety first. In the meantime we can think about turning you back into normal”
“What do you suggest then ?” Vinay asked.
“I suggest we move him to a nearby forest. At least there, neither the animals nor humans can hurt him. Lucky for him, he is at least transformed into a predator. We can get you food and other supplies as you require. All this can be done in the night to avoid suspicion”.
Jai was reluctant to our suggestion first, but after much coaxing, he agreed. Even though i did think about his safety first when pushing him to the forest, i couldn’t help but notice that my questions would also be answered by this move. I could find out how he would adapt to his new surroundings. Can we bring out a rare breed of animal with his predator instincts suppressed while his human emotions still intact. How would such an animal mix up with others of his species. Would they be affected by him and his ways ?
And the plot thickens, as some authors would say. Let the time decide.
That night we arranged for a tempo, a big van. We covered him with sacks and when the street was clear, moved him to the van. The nearest forest was about 80 kms away, but wasn’t far enough where it would be difficult for us to meet him. Everything was planned. We would take turns in meeting him, at least once in a week. We would provide him all the supplies he required for those 3 days. We also made an arrangement with the forest guard to handle this situation without lot of noise. Luckily, the guard was happy with the arrangement and agreed to keep mum.
When we reached the border of the forest, we uncovered the sacks and got him out of the van. Vinay and I walked towards him. We could sense a fear in him. I tried to instill some courage.
“Jai, you are the predator in this forest. All you would need is your growl to keep everyone away. Also that wolverine claws of yours. Just behave like a tiger.”
“Sure boss. Thanks for reminding. Next time i would need a mirror to convince myself.”
All said and done, we said our good byes, promising to meet him the following week. He turned to look at us once and was gone into the darkness. Vinay and I turned to our van and rode back to our place, not a word between us during the ride.
As the week progressed, I was getting more excited. I wanted to be in that forest to see how Jai was doing. As Friday dawned, I ran to Vinay’s house.
“Vinay, lets roll man. Someone is waiting for us.”
“Did you forget that we are not visiting our friend, but a real tiger. We need to wait till night”
“Oh yeah ! i forgot that. Can I wait at your place then ?”
“Be my guest.”
It’s always during an intense wait that a clock gets its revenge. Nevertheless, at 6 pm, we started towards the forest. We reached the border around 7:45 pm. To our surprise, Jai was already waiting at the point we mentioned. He told us that he had been waiting there from 2 hours.
“Hey Jai, how are you man err.. tiger ?”
Jai did not look amused at all with my joke.
“Really ? Is that how you start a conversation with a tiger ? With a PJ ?”
“Chill man. Tell me all about your week. I am so excited to hear”
“Give me my stuff and then i ll tell you” The tiger was teasing me now.
After a good snack break, Jai started telling his one week experience in the forest.
“You know after you guys left me in the forest that night, i had to wander for about 2 hours before i could reach inside the forest premises. Each time i heard a sound, it scared me. I had to convince myself that i am a tiger. Fortunately, i found a place with a small stream nearby. There are some fruit bearing trees there. The entire week i have lived on fruits and berry. It looked like a detox diet i did as a human being. You need to talk to that guard about some cooked meat every night man. I am still not used to eating raw flesh.”
“Ok that is a definite problem. Let us see what can be done about the meat. We will talk to the guard. Did you make any new friends ?”
“Ok last warning. You piss me off again and you will see some stripes on your body too.”
“Hey no, i wasn’t actually making fun. I was interested in knowing if animals could figure you out. How about other tigers. Were there any ?”
“Hmm. I did not spot any tigers although i did hear some roars during the night. Found some elephants and deers. The elephants are a scary bunch. I couldn’t get anywhere near them. I tried to move towards the deer, but they vanished the moment they sensed the danger”
“What danger ?”
“Oh like that. Hmm so basically no friends either. What did you do all week then?”
“Well, during the day i just roamed around the forest. You know it was cool in a way, because humans aren’t allowed this deep inside the forest. I always wanted to see the depths. I wish i could take some photos. Within 3 days, i was fed of that. I was getting tired too. By the way, you should check out the forest. It is just amazing.”
“Sure, lets see if we can have an arrangement with the guard for this as well. With a tiger in our gang, i don’t think we have much danger.”
Jai ignored my comment and continued.
“Other than that, i was pretty much doing the same things like you guys. You on your laptops. I on the treetops.”
“That is the funniest tiger i have seen” I commented, but took back my words looking at his claws.
“The last 2 days i have been staying near the border. I am more scared of the humans, but at least i could hear some regional language. I even managed to listen to radio one night.”
It was getting darker. So we said our good byes again. We talked to the guard about getting some cooked meat for Jai on a daily basis, making an advance payment for that as well. We introduced Jai to the guard. For the guard to identify Jai, we had to tie a piece of cloth on Jai’s neck.
The next week seemed much better. He looked a little more cheerful. He was getting his daily supply of meat. The guard was a little friendly and allowed Jai to be near him. In fact he even managed to make some monkey friends. They would tease him by hitting on his head and climb back on to the trees. Nevertheless a pleasant week. After 3 such weeks, we left him alone for a month as he did not need much support. The guard, in turn, had introduced him to few other locals. Slowly people were adjusting to the human being inside the tiger. He however, did not talk to the locals. Only we knew that secret.
It was during his third month in the forest that the trouble began for him. The trouble came in the form of another tiger. It had found its way into the nearby village and killed a person. The villagers were horrified as it was the first such incident to happen. Everyone was alerted of this event. Some even suspected Jai. But the guard knew the truth and managed to calm the villagers.
When trouble comes, it often comes in quick succession. The tiger managed to strike again. This time, 3 villagers were killed in a span of one week. All the villagers were killed during the night, when everyone was asleep. The villagers were furious now. They decided to find a solution to this themselves. They went hunting with guns and sticks, and in groups. As luck would have it, before long, they found Jai lying on the grass. Hearing the men approaching, Jai woke up startled. Before he could sense what happened, a net was thrown at him. He tangled himself in it and couldn’t move. The men with sticks soon came and started beating him. As the gun was pointed at him, he could take it no more. He cried out loudly.
“Please don’t shoot me. I did not kill anyone.”
The villagers were stunned by what just happened. The guard was also taken aback. He had liked Jai, but was not aware of his speaking ability.
“Believe me. I did not kill anyone. I am a human being, who turned tiger miraculously. I am not a tiger.”
The villagers had to believe it. They were witnessing it. They dropped their sticks and guns. Then Jai told the entire story of how he turned into a tiger and how his friends, Vinay and I helped him to move to a forest, everything up to that very day. Finally one of them spoke.
“Guys, we only know that Jai isn’t the killer. We still have our task at hand. There is another real killer at large, and we need to kill it. Let’s continue our search.”
“Wait” Jai interrupted them.” I have a suggestion.”
“Go on Jai.”
“See, the Tiger is dangerous as he has turned man-eater. How many ever guys go to hunt, there is still a danger to someone getting killed in the process. I have a different idea altogether.”
“What is that ? We were anyways going to shoot him”
“For that you have to spot him. I don’t think you can see him during the day”
“Ok so what is your plan ?”
“Let me fight him !”
The guard called Vinay and myself that same day. We were told the story about the man-eater and its kills. Finally he told us Jai’s plan.
“No way Jai !! That is a definite no. You are not going to fight a real man-eater. I keep telling you that you are a tiger. Today, i am going to remind you. You are not a tiger, Jai. You are a human in tigers form. You only look a predator. Have you ever killed anyone?”
“Listen to me guys. I know what i am doing. Either ways it would only be a help that i can do for these villagers. If they hunt for it themselves, another one is going to be killed. I know for sure that i will not be killed. In any case, i can at least lure him to a place and then let the villagers shoot him. ”
We weren’t convinced. But Jai was reluctant. He believed that there was a reason he was transformed into a tiger, and that reason was to protect the forest and the villages surrounding it. Finally after much discussion, we had to give in. The plan was to lure the man-eater with a sheep tied to a tree. Once the man-eater was there, Jai would try to injure the man-eater, and at the same time, a villager sitting on a tree top with a gun would fire, killing the man-eater. We got a reflector that would be tied to Jai so as to identify him from the man-eater.
Finally the decided day arrived. A sharp shooter was called from another village. As the evening approached, Vinay, myself, few villagers and the sharp shooter headed to the forest. Jai and the guard were already waiting near the border. I insisted that i go with the sharp shooter. I would have my night vision goggles with me to spot the man-eater. Also, I could help the shooter from falling asleep. What i had missed telling others was that i had camera with me. There was no way i wanted to let go of such an event without capturing it.
Leaving the three of us there, everyone left back to the village.
Until about 9pm, Jai and i sat talking while the sharp shooter listened intently. Soon, it was time for us to go back to the tree top. I wished Jai. I was turning a little emotional.
“All the best bro. I am sure you have heard of brave human beings fighting tigers single-handedly. Today this is your chance. Go kill the man-eater. Godspeed.”
“Thanks bro !”, said Jai and went a few steps behind the tree, where the sheep was tied.
Three hours passed since we started waiting. There was no hint of any man-eater. I motioned Jai to go near the sheep so that the sheep can cry in fear. That might alert the man-eater. Jai went near the sheep. As soon as the sheep saw the tiger, it started wailing loudly.
Soon enough, a growl was heard nearby. I tried to look through my night vision goggles. It took me two minutes to spot the tiger. I looked at Jai and signalled. Jai stood alert now. The man-eater was moving in slowly noticing the surroundings, making sure there was no danger around. It was moving in a crouched fashion as it was nearing the sheep. Finally when it was about five steps away from the sheep, i cried out loud.
“Now Jai !”
Just as the man-eater was about to pounce on the sheep, Jai jumped in front of the sheep. Although the man-eater was surprised by this event, it was back on its toes in seconds. It was a bigger animal than Jai. It had fight marks on his face. It was a veteran. It started circling Jai with a strange look in its eyes. May be it could see the fear in Jai. May be the man-eater could see through Jai’s real self. It was Jai’s turn to be aggressive.
“Come on you son of a gun ! You will never see tomorrow.” With that cinematic dialogue delivery, Jai pounced on the man-eater.
What followed next was a fight that i had never seen before. Jai was adept at using his claws. With his first hit, he managed to scratch the man-eater’s right eye. The man-eater was blinded for a second, but it pulled itself back and pounced back on Jai. It may be the first fight for Jai, but certainly not for the man-eater. It ran behind Jai and jumped on his back, punching Jai in the process. Jai was hurt with this blow. In any case, it wasn’t the moment to feel the pain. Before Jai could get up again, another blow landed on him. The man-eater dug his claws into Jai’s neck. Jai cried in pain, and lay still for a second.
Where was the shooter ? I whistled loudly to the shooter. There was no reply.
“Jai” I tried calling him. I whistled again. Jai was still. The man-eater waited for a minute, before it began to move towards the sheep.
Suddenly from behind, there was a roar. It was Jai. The tiger in him had woken up. The protector of the forest had woken up. He roared even louder. He charged towards the man-eater and jumped, as if from a perfect distance, on to the man-eater, this time landing a blow on his neck with such power that the man-eater fell. The blow had done its job, and Jai collapsed again. He was hurt and bleeding. As the man-eater got up, there was a loud gunshot. The shooter had found his target. The man-eater fell this time and did not get up.
After few minutes, we both went down. Jai was still unconscious. We soon called for help.
The villagers arrived in no time. Jai was carried to the nearby hospital and attended to. Within a day, he was conscious. I was the first one to speak.
“Jai, you did it man. You Killed the man-eater. Bravo.”
“I did it ?” Jay was weak. He couldn’t speak much. He slept again.
Meanwhile, i had managed to copy the video footage onto my computer. When the villagers saw the fight, they were spellbound. I could see the reverence in them. We were all proud of Jai.
Within a few days, Jai was up and running. The villagers were happy for Jai. They made him his favourite dishes. Even the kids played with him. The story of the tiger revenge spread far and wide. People thronged to see this wonder animal. The video went viral. Now that everyone knew about the Jai and his story, we went to him.
“Jai. So you are famous now. Now that everyone knows you, let’s go home man. Lets party ! Madagascar style. We like to move it !” I teased Jai. Jai did not seem excited about this.
“Jai ? We just gave you the best news of your life. You don’t look all that happy”
“Yes you are right. I am not elated at the thought of going home. You know when i was first hurt, and i lay still, i felt someone speaking in my ears. It told me “Jai, wake up, we need you. Wake up”. That is when i woke up. I felt a sudden urge in me. A sudden boost of energy. The energy in me and those words made me fight the man eater again. ”
“What do you intend to say Jai ?”
Jai was quiet for a moment, thinking. Finally he spoke
“I am convinced guys. I was wrongly created a human. I was created to protect this forest and its inhabitants.
This is my real life. This is my real purpose. I am the lord of this jungle.
He walked away from us, into the depths of the jungle.