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Namish and the Tiger


The tiger was annoyed. Not only had he not eaten all day, but he couldn’t find anything to hunt. He was not happy. However, as he slowly moved through the forest, he suddenly heard something. He knew it was the sound of human movement, because his instincts as a tiger told him. He gradually moved towards where it came from, licking his lips in anticipation. He saw in a clearing in the forest, a human, a man who seemed to be collecting firewood. “Aha’ thought the tiger.

He carefully slid through the undergrowth, taking care not to make any sound. Little by little, he came closer, until he was just behind the man, who was, in fact, collecting firewood. But, just as he was about to make one of his pounces, (for which he was well-known), the man straightened up and turned around. “Oh, hullo” he said. The tiger was a little taken aback. Normally, he expected his prey to scream in terror and try to run away. But this man didn’t. This man, of medium size, had a moustache and wore glasses, and he was looking at the tiger with some astonishment and curiosity. “You’re a tiger, aren’t you? I’ve never seen one before. Apart from in a zoo, that is’.

“A zoo!’ roared the tiger, furiously. “How dare you! I’m a wild and dangerous animal, and I don’t come out of any zoo!’ “Oh. All right’ said the man. ‘ No disrespect. It’s just that I haven’t ever seen one of you around. By the way, do you play chess?’ The tiger was surprised. ‘As a matter of fact, I do. And I’m rather good at it too. My mother taught it to me as a cub’’ Then, suddenly becoming suspicious, he said “Here, you, what’s your game?’ The man laughed and replied ‘I might as well ask you that. Animals, perhaps? Anyway, my name is Namish. What’s yours?’ The tiger said loftily ‘you may call me Tiger. With a capital letter, of course. Now because of my savage and ferocious nature, I might as well kill you and eat you’.

‘Well, hold on’ said Namish. “No need for that. Why don’t you come back to my house first and have something to drink, and then we can have a game of chess?’ The tiger paused to think for a moment. “After all, it’s only polite’ said Namish,, which was rather a new concept for the tiger. ‘Hmm,’ said Tiger, and then slightly grudgingly, ‘all right, then. But I’ll beat you easily’. ‘Well, we’ll see about that’, replied Namish with a grin. ‘But it’s this way. Let’s go’.

So  Tiger and Namish walked back to Namish’s house. There Tiger enjoyed a very large bowl of milk, and then they settled down to play chess. Despite what he said, Tiger was not very good. He always ended up with his Queen taken very early in the game, and also ended up being checkmated. He grew very grumpy and surly, so as to help him, Namish made a few deliberate mistakes, and, at length, Tiger won. He was so pleased. ‘There, you see! I’m better than you’. Namish smiled to himself, but said politely to Tiger,’’Would you like to come back again, and play some more chess with me?’ ‘Yes’, said Tiger rather disdainfully, ‘but you had better play better than that again’. ‘Ok, ‘ said Namish,, ‘come round every evening, if you wish, and I’ll give you a better game’. So Tiger agreed.

So it was, that for many evenings, they played together, sometimes Namish winning, and sometimes Tiger. But they were both quite happy together, and in between games, they talked to each other, about their lives, and how they saw the world, and their differences. Tiger talked about his skill as a hunter, his love of  stalking his next meal, and how he loved the taste of red blood and raw meat. Namish talked about his love of good curries and delicious spices, which Tiger didn’t always understand, but was always quite interested. Together they had an interesting time, and became friends, one animal, and one human.

But Tiger had a weakness. He had taken to attacking and killing the local peoples’ cattle, partly out of laziness and partly because he liked eating them. And one day, this very nearly led to his downfall. He was prowling through the forest as usual, shoulders hunched in readiness for the sight of any animal that came into his sight. He walked carefully and without noise, looking this way and that for any sign of a stray animal that he could leap upon. “Zlunk! Something had crashed into the tree-trunk just in front of him. “Zlunk!’ as another something whizzed by his nose. Startled, Tiger looked around. To his horror, ther were men running towards him, with those strange sticks that fired things, and he knew immediately that they were after him. He ran quickly into the undergrowth to escape. ‘Zlunk! Zlunk! Zlunk!’ Their shots were behind him and in front of him.  He had only one direction to go. Left. ‘By my mother’s ears,’ gasped Tiger to himself. ‘I don’t want to end up as a  hearthrug’.

But then he thought of something. In that direction lay Namish’s house. If he could make it, that would be safe. Namish would look after him. He ran in that direction, with shots still being fired at him, but keeping low and quiet. At length, he reached Namish’s house, and hoped desperately that Namish would be there He banged the door with his head, and, much to his relief, Namish came out. He looked puzzled to see Tiger, by now looking very much the worse for wear by his run through the undergrowth. “What’s up’ He enquired. ‘Them! said Tiger. ‘Those hunters! They’re after me!’ Namish looked at him sternly. “You’ve been eating their cattle again, haven’t you? I’m not surprised they’re after you. All right. Come on in’.

Namish looked thoughtfully at  Tiger, still panting after his ordeal. “You need a disguise’, he said. I might have the very thing’. And with that he began to rummage in a large trunk in the corner. Presently he pulled out a very strange and large garment. It was a very big robe with a deep hood attached, made of a dark brown material. ‘This should fit you.,’ said Namish, ‘Put it on now’. Tiger was scandalised. ‘I’m not wearing that! I’m a tiger, not a human! Not a chance!’ ‘Ok,’ said Namish. ‘ so you want to be a hearthrug, do you?. Tiger subsided, and sullenly allowed Namish to put it on, which covered him completely. With the hood up, he just simply looked like a very large figure. ‘Now, suggested Namish, ‘go and sit in the corner over there and do not make a sound. Oh, by the way, I’d better let you know. You’re going to pretend you’re my mother’.

            Tiger let out a short screech of fury, but suddenly kept quiet as there was a loud banging at the door.. It flew open. There stood two huntsmen, with rifles in their hands. They looked at Namish and the robed figure in the corner. ‘Have you seen a tiger around here?’ one of them asked sharply. Namish shook his head. ‘No, I haven’t. Why, are you looking for one?’ ‘Yes’, said the huntsman. ‘”he’s been killing our cattle, and we’re after him. Who’s this, by the way’, looking hard at the tiger in his disguise. ‘Oh, this is my mother,’ said Namish quickly. ‘She’s staying with me for a while’. ‘She’s a bit large, isn’t she?’ said the other huntsman, looking at ‘her’ doubtfully. “Well’  said Namish, ‘She’s had fifteen children, and she is rather tired after that. And she is rather old and lost her looks, as you can imagine. And she doesn’t speak much now, do you, mother?’ At that, Tiger gave a low snarl. “I see what you mean” said the hunter, with a  chuckle. ‘ All right, we’ll leave you in peace. But that tiger had better look out.’ And they left.

‘Phew, that was close’. said Namish. ‘How dare you say I was your mother and had fifteen children’ said a furious Tiger. ‘Oh, shut up’ replied Namish, rather irritably. ‘ We’re not out of the woods yet. I’ve got to get you out of here quickly in case they come back. Now, how good are you at walking on your hind legs’. Tiger considered this, and said ‘Yes, I can do that’’. ‘Right,’ said Namish. ‘ Now I want you to walk upright, in your robe, walk out with me, and still pretend you’re my mother’. Tiger growled, but between them, Tiger walked out as Namish’s mother. He was a bit unsteady but with Namish acting as a crutch, they managed it..

As they walked down to the forest (with some effort) they met two small children,, brother and sister, who Namish knew. ‘Hallo, Namish’ they cried. ‘Who is that?’ ‘Oh, this is my mother’ replied Namish very quickly. ‘She’s a bit ill. See you soon’. And off they went. But the two children looked at each other in some surprise. For what they had seen was something like a large furry yellow and black tail that seemed to be hanging down under his mother’s robe. What was that? His little sister said, ‘Perhaps it’s part of a dress that she’s got on underneath that robe’. Her brother shrugged. They went on down to the pond where they wanted to play, and thought no more about it.

When Namish and Tiger got to the edge of the forest, they looked around to see if anyone was watching. But no-one was there. Tiger threw off his robe with a sigh of relief.. Then he looked at Namish. ‘You have saved my life,’ he growled quietly. ‘Though you have made me pretend to be your mother, and made me walk on my hind legs, and made me look like a complete idiot, which as a tiger, I am not happy with, I am still very grateful to you. If there is anything I can do for you, I will’. This was a big speech for Tiger.

Namish looked at him, and then quietly said, ‘You must promise not to attack and eat any more cattle, because it will bring more trouble on you. And it will be better exercise for you to find your own meat in future. But I would like you to come to my house and play chess with me, because I would like to think that we are friends, and that you like my company. Would you do that?’ Tiger smiled, as tigers do,, nodded his head, and moved off into the forest. Namish waited until he had disappeared, and then yelled ‘By the way, you’re rubbish at chess!’ There was an answering roar. ‘Just you wait!’

Frank Jackson (28/06/06)