The missed venison

Right In The Middle

Surrounded by the picturesque Malnad forests lay a good stretch of our ancestral paddy fields in Hosahalli near Bhadravati. This was way back in 1950s and as per the practice prevailing then, we had tenanted the land to Lambani farmers who had established their ‘tandya’ (hamlet) there. Come harvest season, I would go there to collect our share and stay in the estate house. I invariably carried my 16 bore double-barrel shotgun as a precaution against wild beasts, aplenty then.

During one such visit, the wife of our Lambani chieftain Rooplya Nayaka delivered a baby boy and it was their custom to celebrate this occasion with a ‘venison feast.’ To my horror, the ‘honour’ of providing them with deer meat was ceremoniously thrust upon me, their landlord!

At that time there was no restriction whatsoever for big and small game hunting. I cursed myself for being there at this juncture and was sickened by the unsavoury task of shooting a deer. Simple and sincere, Lambanis had their own deep-rooted convictions.

Had I chosen to reject the whole thing outright, I would have definitely fallen in their esteem, besides facing their imminent non-cooperation in my work.

Next morning Rooplya himself took me in his bullock cart for the task. As we trundled through the forest, I was desperately working on a way out of this dreadful situation.

Then an idea flashed to me suddenly. As the cart jolted over the rough corrugated track, I deliberately dropped my gun, making it look like an accidental slip. Stopping the cart, Rooplya jumped down and fetched my gun, wiping the dust with his turban.

The search resumed and soon the cart stopped as Rooplya signalled me towards an open green patch, where two lovely stags were leisurely grazing in the warm sunlight.
I poised myself and pretended to aim at the harmless beauties. Seconds ticked on, but the gun didn’t fire! “Shoot, sahib, shoot!” shouted Rooplya impatiently, shattering the serene silence of the jungle. In a flash the stags bounded off and vanished into their safe world. Rooplya stared at me in disbelief, disappointment writ large on his face.

“Both triggers are jammed, must have got damaged when the gun fell,” I lied with a straight face and felt inwardly relieved when he appeared convinced.

Returning to the ‘tandya’ I took care to arrange for sumptuous eats from Bhadravati — laced liberally, of course, with their favourite arrack, and enough to drown their disappointment over the missing venison!

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