One Day As a Tiger

Overview

Not another story about India? Yes, because India has the wealth of material to support new writers till the end of time.
Seen through new eyes, another rich Indian feast is spread before you. Sadhus and snake charmers, sorcerers and secret,
service agents, weave an unusual tale, set in the romantic era of the British Raj.

A God descends to earth in human form, taking us ...

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Overview

Not another story about India? Yes, because India has the wealth of material to support new writers till the end of time.
Seen through new eyes, another rich Indian feast is spread before you. Sadhus and snake charmers, sorcerers and secret,
service agents, weave an unusual tale, set in the romantic era of the British Raj.

A God descends to earth in human form, taking us from forests inhabited by cobras and tigers to the opulent palaces of wealthy Maharajas. We are escorted through the 'Valley of the Gods,'
and introduced to violence and black magic before the chilling conclusion.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780755200207
  • Publisher: Authors Online
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.46 (d)

First Chapter

Dipping his fingers into an earthenware pot filled with ashes, Krishna-Ji drew the triple mark of the god Shiva on his forehead. The symbol highlighted an already unusual face, lined and hawk like, with a greying beard and the traditional topknot on an otherwise clean-shaven head. His eyes were dark and intelligent; they were eyes that had seen worlds other than the physical one in which he now dwelt.
     He placed a can of kerosene in front of himself as he muttered a string of holy mantras under his breath and fingered the coral beads he wore around his neck. On the banks of the holy river Jumna, he carefully adjusted his supple body into the lotus position. The sun rose over the water, glimmering through the patches of dark threatening monsoon clouds, disguising the muddy river with the brilliant colour of the sadhu's saffron robes as he prepared to look into himself to determine whether he had erred beyond redemption.
 
     Unknown to Krishna-Ji, the young woman known as Pagal Shanta had followed him down to the river. She was grateful to him for having saved her from a band of brawling drunkards the previous day. Knowing that he was a much-revered holy man, she craved his blessing. Besides, she already knew that she was carrying his child.

     A few yards behind Krishna-Ji sat a famous snake charmer, known to everyone as Nanda. He, too, sought an audience with the sadhu, whom he held in great esteem. Shanta respectfully sat a little distance behind the two men, wondering when she could safely break into the sadhu's meditations to ask for his blessing. She had already spoken to Nanda about the calamitous incident that had occurred a few days previously, revealing to him the role the holy sadhu had played. Shanta predicted that their son would be a special child for he would carry the genes of extraordinary parents. Nanda was aware of Shanta's mystic reputation and always respected her predictions.

     Krishna-Ji, the sadhu, had spent a lifetime attaining the enviable mental and spiritual control he had over his body. Over and over again, he forced himself to recall the unfortunate episode that had left his normally calm and devout mind in such a state of turmoil. It had been an exceptionally hot day, just before the monsoons broke. It was the kind of heat that engendered a heightening of all the baser emotions, leaving the city full of anger, potential violence and bloodshed. Normally he would have walked through the streets with his begging bowl, knowing that his presence would demand respect and that his bowl would willingly be filled with rice, bread or coins. On that day, however, he had sensed evil in the atmosphere. Normally friendly vendors had ignored him, beggar boys had taunted him, and the customarily cowering pi-dogs had snapped and snarled at his ankles. He had quickened his steps as he made towards the river, prepared to do without any food that day. It would have been no hardship for him, for he had often fasted for weeks on end. His will power was immense. He had pierced his tongue with bamboo skewers, leaving them there for days on end. Very soon after removing them, the wounds would have healed. He had often been known to walk on burning coals as well.
     Head bowed, Krishna-Ji had almost arrived at the end of the long main street of the bazaar when he came across a group of drunken brawlers fighting over Shanta. They were manhandling her roughly, ripping her clothes and dragging her by her hair. She struggled and cried out to passers-by for help, but everyone ignored her, going about their own business. Krishna-Ji could saw that she was suffering pain and distress so he remonstrated with the men, politely asking them to release her.
     At his intrusion, they had flung her to the ground, turning on him instead. Too drunk to recognise a holy man, they had twisted his arms behind his back, beaten him with sticks and left him barely conscious. Intoxicated to the point of insanity, they had then dragged the sadhu and Shanta into a disused storeroom just off the narrow street. Here, they forcibly poured the remains of their lethal home made alcohol down their throats. They had intended setting fire to them, taunting the holy man, telling him that if he could walk on burning coals, he should be able to extinguish this fire in his belly.
     At that moment, two young prostitutes who appeared fearfully out of the darkness unwittingly saved the unfortunate couple. They had been using the premises without permission to ply their trade. The men quickly turned their attentions to the hapless whores, shouting as they tore their clothes off them. They dragged the two women out through the back of the store, slamming the door on the unintentionally inebriated couple who lay huddled together on the floor.
     By the river, the sadhu forced himself to relive the unsavoury incident. He could hardly bring himself to remember waking up with the naked Shanta in his arms, their bodies sticking together with sweat as the incense sticks - left behind by the prostitutes - filled the air around him with perfume and desire.
     He was revolted at the thought that he had been so totally consumed with lust that he had been unable to control his animal emotions. His normal strength and control over his mind had returned to him too late. Now, all he could do was answer to the god Shiva and be punished for his carnal sin. As the sinister black crows circled around him, calling their wild and raucous warnings, he knew what to do.

     Nanda was a jadoowallah, a magician who had a nation-wide reputation for sorcery and for creating magic that had long been forgotten by others now practising his profession. He came from a venerable line of gifted conjurers and snake charmers and his power over snakes, particularly cobras, was known to be quite unnatural. Many said that he did not even bother to remove the poison glands from those that he used for entertainment. Wealthy people sought him out to entertain their guests when they had parties, or to celebrate a holy festival or lavish wedding.
     That morning, Nanda had risen early to go to the spot by the river near the ghats where the water buffalo wallowed in the khaki coloured water. He knew it was one of the favourite retreats of the holy man, a place where he regularly meditated. Nanda felt that the sadhu held secrets that could help him in his profession, if only he could persuade him to divulge them. He had seen him pierce his tongue with bamboo spikes and walk on hot coals. He was convinced that these were clever tricks which he, too, could learn. Krishna-Ji knew what was in the magician's mind and tried constantly to persuade him that these things could only be achieved by faith and will power, not by deception.
     'Krishna-Ji,' Nanda had often pleaded, 'show me how to do the world-famous trick, and I will let the whole of India know that it was you who taught me.'
     'What trick is that, my son?' Krishna-Ji asked him, feigning ignorance. He gazed solemnly at the kingfishers flashing in and out of the water in front of them, practising their own special brand of magic.
     Ignoring them, the magician reminded him of the famous trick known as The Indian Rope Trick, asking if such a trick could be performed through faith. Krishna-Ji knew of the trick which involved throwing a rope into the air, where it would remain as though held by an invisible hand. The performer would then get his assistant, usually a young boy, to climb up this rope till he vanished into thin air, taking the rope with him. There had been many attempts to explain this trick but, as few had ever seen it, most people assumed it was a skilful display of hypnosis performed by masters of that art.
     'The ruse can be achieved by anyone well versed in hypnosis,' he told Nanda, speaking softly and staring intently at his navel, 'but true levitation is achieved by faith alone.'
     Normally the sadhu would have enjoyed talking to Nanda about the endless possibilities of achieving miracles through faith and will power as opposed to trickery. On that day, however, his only concern was to appease his gods.
     'Now you must leave me, my son,' he said, starting to rise. 'I am about to depart on a long journey.'
     Nanda walked dejectedly back to Shanta and sat by her side. She too wanted to talk urgently to the holy man, the father of her newly conceived child. The visions she had seen concerning her son contained confusing images, with which she was not at all familiar. As Shanta watched the sadhu, trying to pluck up enough courage to go and speak to him, he raised his head and looked into the sky. First he put his hands together as if in prayer. Then, as the black clouds obscured the sun, with a long low moan like that of an animal in pain, he deliberately poured the kerosene over himself and set it alight.


 

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