Skip to main content

IN THE HEART OF THE JUNGLE

"Tiger for Breakfast" is a book on Boris Lissanevitch of Nepal. He is considered the father of Nepalese hospitality industry having opened the first star rated hotel in the heart of Kathmandu at the personal invitation of King Tribhuvan, one of the milestone in Nepal's open door policies adopted after 1951 and the advent of democracy. The White Russian was indeed a colourful figure having started his career at the Kirov Ballet, making his way to India from Paris after the Russian Revolution and came to Nepal via the famous Club 500 of Calcutta. But how did he land up in a shikar in the heart of the jungle of Nepal, Chitawan?

The shikar or hunting party described in the book is that of my father General Kiran Shumsher J. B. Rana, the Commander-in-chief of the Royal Nepalese army. Boris and his Danish wife Inger were his personal guests. It was a hunt that was organized for His Majesty King Tribhuvan of Nepal by his army chief. All necessary arrangements had been made: the royal camp, suites for VIP guests of the king, tents for the royal collaterals, a huge dining mess, quarters for the army regiment on guard duty, tens of elephants for the hunt chase! There was not a detail overlooked. After all it was a royal hunt for a king who had just recently been restored to the throne of Nepal as a sovereign ending 104 years of Rana oligarchical rule.

Nepal's only aircraft a DC3 was ready on the tarmac to fly the next morning the king and the royal retinue to the landing pad in the cleared jungle. General Kiran was ready to go to bed to wake up early the next morning; he knew it was going to be a long day accompanying the king to the royal camp for a fortnight. The telephone rang. It was no other than King Tribhuvan. "Kiran," began the King in his clear and pleasantly soft voice, "some political development has taken place and I am afraid that I cannot go on the hunting trip tomorrow." General Kiran was taken aback and he visualized all the preparations and expenses coming to naught. He was even more taken aback when the king declared, "Kiran, you go in my place, you can take your family too. After all you have made all those arrangements and it would be a shame to have them go waste." The general was stunned. Never in his wildest dreams did he ever think he would be hunting like in the good old days of his father Maharajah Juddha Shumsher. As an absolute ruler Juddha commanded all at his disposal, his hunts were lavish, on a scale of the Mughal period. Times were different now. Rana oligarchy had gone with the wind. But indeed General Kiran's favourite pastime was hunting. He certainly did not want to let such an opportunity pass.

The next morning he flew the DC3 aircraft with many members of his family including Boris and his wife Inger who the King had included in his hunting party as royal guests. The hunt was indeed on a Cecille de Mille scale, games were plentiful then, not for no reason was "Chitta Bana" named so, it did signify the heart of the jungle. Not only were the animals plentiful but a big menace too to the hunters and gatherers who lived there in the jungle fringes for millennium. Hunting was allowed during certain winter periods and the hunter alone knows too well that over-hunting would put a natural end to this beautiful pastime. Spring was for renewal and the hunters made sure the numbers multiplied. All summer mothers bore the young ones in the womb and the autumn was for tending the young. Nature was bountiful.

A tiger hunt is a continuous adrenalin rush. Once the tiger is located an area the size of two football fields is surrounded by white cloth or "vith" and in the outer circle elephants ring the "vith" to make sure there is no escape. Beaters on elephant and on foot go into the jungle to drive the tiger, now encircled and ferocious, towards the hunter, who either sits atop an elephant or on a "machan" or blind built on a tree. The beat had started and General Kiran was atop his Kiran Prasad, bull elephant, tall and with magnificent tusks. Beside him were his eager young son Pramode and Inger, wife of Boris, statuesque, with flowing long blond hair, face turning red with anticipation and excitement.

The excitement and anticipation would soon give way to unmitigated terror! Kiran Prasad was on its "musth", the particular period when male Asian elephants over 20 years undergo, a period of madness, a time when they do not respond to the "mahout" the driver's command, when a gland near the ears secrete an oil like substance. Suddenly the bull went berserk! It started running through the thick foliage, an elephant does not need a path, only the people atop it need the path. Tree branches came crashing down on the 'howdah' seat where the three were sitting. The mahout's shouts, the sharp iron hooks pulling back the ear lobes employed for breaking, smacking sounds emanating from khukri blows on its head notwithstanding the bull rampaged through the jungle. It was at this time Inger tried to make a move that might have proven fatal, she was stepping over the howdah to jump down. It is widely known elephants in musth would just trample upon anyone jumping from its back. In the nick of time General Kiran grabbed her by her voluminous hair and she came crashing down again into the howdah. After rampaging through the thick jungle for nearly twenty minutes, the mahout finally was able to bring the bull under his control. General Kiran took his young son in his laps and pressed him close, Inge crossed herself, they all knew that it had been a close call.

General Kiran with Boris and Inger in the "Tiger for Breakfast" hunt
"The Tiger for Breakfast" episode of the namesake book was made possible by the largess of the king bestowed on his military chief. What few know is that the hunters were nearly hunted down during a mad 15 minutes spell of the fabulous tusker's "musth".

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

THE SATI WIVES OF JUNG BAHADUR, MAHARAJAH OF NEPAL

If only the Tudor King Henry VIII of England were as lucky as Jung Bahadur Rana, he would have had male heirs aplenty and he would not have had to behead a few of his queens in the hope of his next one presenting him with an heir. All the Maharanis would live together at Hampton Court Palace in seeming harmony at least until the death of the Maharajah. If England had the tradition of Sati, who among Henry's wives would have had the macabre honour of being buried alive with him? Would her be Catherine of Aragon his first queen? Or Anne Boleyn? Or the fair Jane Seymour, his favorite queen who gave him his only male heir, had she not died in her postnatal illness?

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana had many wives because he did not have the Catholic Church to worry about. He had at least a dozen sons and innumerable daughters from at least 13 recorded wives. He married some for love, others for political alliances with various noble houses, including a sister of Fateh Jung Shah, one of th…

JUNG BAHADUR RANA AND THE DANCING DAMSELS - THE SOJOURN IN FRANCE

Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana left England for France with a rich treasure trove of memories and an ambition his experiences in Britain had fueled for his own poor and backward nation. He was heartbroken too as he had to leave behind his paramour Laura Bell. Far from the complexities of ruling a highly destabilized country coming so soon after the tumultuous Kot and Bhandarkhal episodes, Jung had truly relaxed in England and had grown fond of the young Irish lass. He wanted to stay longer but the situation back home was unfavourable. Jung was seething with anger that his brother Bom Bahadur who he left behind as officiating prime minister had not been able to take a firm grip on the affairs of state. Even in faraway England he got reports that his enemies were again trying to rear their ugly heads, he would have to smite them with the power of his ingenuity once more. He knew he could not trust his ambitious third brother Badri Narsingh and the one after that Ranoddip was an indeci…

FEATHERS IN THE CROWN

As a kid I used to gape in wonderment at the magnificent crown my father possessed not knowing that the jewels were only for show. The dark green emerald drops were made of glass, the sparkling diamonds were probably zirconium and the pearls were not of the best sort. Every Rana general had his personal crown in those days and my father was no exception. I did not recognize the difference between this personal crown of father's and the other more valuable crown of the Nepalese Commander-in-Chief of the Army that my father was seen wearing in many a portrait displayed about the house. Little did I know that my father was the last person to put on his head the army chief's crown from the Rana era, real glittering diamonds, snow white pearls and thumb-sized emerald drops and all. The feather in the crown was the magnificent plumes of the Bird of Paradise that gave it such a majestic look.

Nepal had only three crowns that were genuinely the real stuff bedecked with expensive pear…