Who is not fond of
guns? Especially as children! Right from the age of reasoning, or
even earlier when one starts comprehending things and the memory
banks start storing data and ticking, one learns to recognize a
gun as something that lends power, an extension to one's own faculties,
to one's own clout and reach.
In our very first
games, 'cops' and 'robbers' invariably feature. And even when devoid
of a toy pistol, as little ones we are wont to pretend we have a
weapon. Holding the palm of an extended hand depicting a cocked
pistol - all by folding three fingers inwards into the palm while
aiming the stretched and straight index finger and thumb at right
angles to each other and pointing at the intended target - be it
a friend or foe!
My own introduction
to guns perhaps was no different. But I did have the added advantage
of a pater with an obsessive zest for life in the outdoors, with
youthful stories full of guns and shikar, exploits and encounters
into the wilds, - a father who put stars in his child's eyes to
make him sure worthy of hero worship. And this admiration evident
from even pre-memory days manifesting itself in my "..dada
ttopp, …kakaa gnummm". Said to be my favourite refrain
to describe how dad would shoot and the bird would fall. Going by
stories mother tells me, of days when I was still a toddler in her
are full of stories of dad's hunting exploits and expeditions, -
some shared, many others of times before I arrived on the scene.
Most famous of them, was about a game of the skies, whose identity
while transporting to home station needed to be kept from prying
eyes for reasons not prudent to disclose. So when it was rolled
in mats from head to tail-feather tips and put on top of a bus,
its length exceeded beyond that of the bus - so the legend goes
- with either end protruding on the roof from front and the rear
of the bus. Such was the size of this legendary bird!
And there is this
story of how dad was miraculously saved from being swallowed by
a python the size of a tree trunk, even as he was about to bag a
majestic sambar in the jungles surrounding the Hampi ruins. Of another,
when he shot two warring reptiles in one shot, resting the gun on
the window-sill even while running high fever and lying sick in
bed. A scene witnessed by us all, when didi had come running to
inform of two king cobras in fighting stance spitting at each other
with heads lifted high and hoods spread wide, right in the pathway
to the toilet blocks in the compound. Of other times when I accompanied
him hunting bats by the gunny-sack full, from their giant-trees
resting grounds across the banks of river Netravati off Panemangalur.
When bat blood massage was prescribed for treating my ailing kid
A childhood remembered
with shikari outings galore, most family picnics not complete without
the accompanying guns of course. When elders carried their adult
weapons, we youngsters were not bare, but carried our own air guns
to boot. I recall bagging my first bird - a white crane, with an
air-gun at one such picnic at Penmanur. A sandy rail line suburb
off Mangalore, where maternal uncle Father Basil had spent some
years as a young Parish Priest.
And such outings
turned to be a way of life once the coffee estate came on the scene.
As children we invariably accompanied dad on the estate, the hunter's
satchel slung from the shoulders by a long sling-strap, or a knap-sack
on one's back to keep both hands free and handy. The bag contained
the basic hunter's essentials for the day - gunpowder, birdshot
and buckshot, a couple of twelve bore cartridges (LG, SG or just
No.4), percussion caps and enough coir and waste paper for padding
the munition while loading a shot into the muzzle-loader.
We were experts at
loading a gun while still young - even a muzzle-loading gun, a position
that we were allowed to graduate to once pater was convinced of
our healthy respect for the lethal consequences of negligent handling
of gunpowder and caps! And we were allowed the honour of carrying
the spare gun, imitating the gait and style of how the adults conducted
themselves. Looking back, 'tis a miracle that we were not victims
of any mishap - which speaks not a little of the confidence pater
had in the training (more by example) that he imparted to us his
sons, even when still tender in age.
There was this time
when we went wild-boar baiting. There were near to a million (or
so it seemed) jack-fruit trees on the estate, for whose fruit there
were no takers. Except the nocturnal beings - mainly wild boar,
that feasted on the fallen, rotting, heap of fruit below every jack
tree. We remained awake atop a neighbouring tree, waiting for the
boar herd to arrive. It was early hours before they came - led by
a huge male with curled tuskers - their grunts betraying their presence.
We switched on our piercing head-lights on our hunters' helmets
and viewed the scene.
But before dad could
decide on his first prey, the excitement of it all made me slip
and fall, from the perch on the tree. A horrified father watched
even as the king boar scratched earth in readiness to charge, unable
to get the game between the eyes, knowing full well a hit elsewhere
would only scratch and bounce, to enrage the wild one more. Realising
the futility of wasting the shot and fearing for the safety of his
son, father reacted with lightening speed, jumping from the tree
into the wild-boar's path. From my supine position 'midst rotten
filth, I watched pater take aim and fire all in a split second.
The shot got the beast in the right spot, but did not slow the momentum
of its charge. It was my turn to watch in horror, as the rhino-sized
knocked down my father. Who, by now had the rifle by the barrel
using it like a club trying to clobber the wild beast down.
I feared the worst,
and closed my eyes, affixed in a trance and unable to move. And
opened them only when I heard dad's voice calling me to help extricate
himself from under the hairy mass of black leathery dead meat over
him. A survey of damage revealed heavy bruises on pater, no more.
But the rifle had taken a beating. It was broken in two. Despite
my misadventure, we had bagged a decent game. It took a dozen strong
shoulders to transport the beast from jungle to bungalow, slung
from two long wooden tree stakes.
Wild life enthusiasts
of today may not like my nostalgic memories of the days gone by.
Not without reason. But those were days of plenty. With forests
still lush and virgin, of wild life and game aplenty. When species
were definitely not endangered. But today we have reached a stage
where such indulgence is literally criminal. When let alone for
game, we do not have most species available even for viewing pleasure.
It is unfortunate that meaningless and indiscriminate indulgence
for purposes other than need and pest control, has deprived the
present and coming generations of the joys - the type that we ourselves
once enjoyed, in the days gone by. Long past the time for us now,
to take heed and sit up!
Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can
interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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