I have always had this gut feeling for an outdoor related activity, be it hiking or
camping boy scout style or hunting. The basis of my fondness for this sport comes from the
fact that the environment in which I grew up comprised of a western influence, where it
was customary of the elders to boast of their hunting prowess over a Chota peg. I have
always been a keen reader and Jim Corbett and Keneth Anderson certainly helped in dreaming
of animals and the wilderness and the dangers.
My first weapon was a BSA Air Gun presented to me by the Maharanee of Jodhpur, where we
had been performing with Prithvi Theatres. Her sons used to take me along on duck shoots
and Black Buck hunting and that is where it all started from. I remember the feeling of
travelling with them in their convertible Rolls Royce, custom made for shikar, chasing the
herds of Black Bucks. I received my first lesson in the do's and don'ts of Shikar from
Col. Mohan Singh, who was the ADC to the Maharajah and in charge of the shoot, when I shot
my first partridge with a 20 bore double barrel and I dropped the gun and ran to pick up
the partridge. I got the firing of my life. He said you do not throw your weapon, never. I
never forgot that.
It was the excitment, the thrill; and that memory I carried with me for a long time till I
grew up and bought my first two weapons; a .32 bore Webly Scott Revolver and a 12 bore
Double Barrel gun by Wright & Sons; as soon as I was 21 years old (later I was to get
a .375 Holland & Holland rifle, a 450-400 Purdy DBBL and a .370 Strech & co. over
and under DBBL rifle along with a hornet .22 for small game and much later a .32 PPK
Walther). I bought my first Jeep in 1956 and called it "Dinky". Why? I forget.
But the next one I named "Yahoo" after I used this expression in my first
superhit film "Tumsa Nahin Dekha".
I shot my first tiger in 1958 in Bhopal at the Barasia forest block along with my friend
Nasir Husain's Uncle (Najma Hepthala's father) but never got to collect my trophy because
the tiger after being hit, tumbled into a canyon over the hillside and by the time we were
able to organize a group of people to go down after it the next day the vultures had
already done their job and there was only the skeleton left. But that did not stop me.
I shot my second tiger with a close friend and comedienne actor Johnny Walker. He was
going out for a shoot and wanted me to join him. I obliged and lady luck smiled at me. In
big game hunting it is customary to select who gets to shoot first as the trophy belongs
to him who draws first blood. So Johnny and I took turns on alternative days and
fortunately for me, the night we spotted the tiger it was my turn. It was a huge male,
measuring 10' 3" and there is a photo of how I looked the next morning with this
beauty. My third tiger I shot in the Hills of Terai, a beautiful terrain of wild forest
area at the foot of the Himalayas bordering the Nepal and India boundaries. It was after a
kill had taken place. You tie up small bulls or goats in an area which is supposed to be
tiger country and when he makes the kill he eats a little from it, then covers it up and
takes a siesta before returning to the kill. This is usually discovered by our shikari
scouts and then a Haka is organized. This is where you get to sit on a small hidden
platform on some tree or behind a dense bush (which is very, very dangerous but people
have done it) while the beaters make a lot of sound beating on their tin pots and
whatever, driving the tiger towards the machan you are sitting on. It can be dangerous
both for the shikari and the beaters. If the tiger spots the hunter first he is very
quick, agile and strong. If he gets wounded he can turn back towards the beaters and this
has happened a lot of times so one has to be very sure of both his guts and gun. There is
a nice photo of this 10 footer before my skinner did his job on him.
It is not only the big game in the jungles that lures you. It is the peaceful, environment
in its natural element, away from any civilization aroma to it. I have spent a number of
christmas and new year celebrations with my friends and family in the jungles. There is no
electricity in most of the Dak Bungalows in the forests and the sky is full of the stars
you never get to see in the city. The winters are very cold so the campfire atmosphere is
something you don't want to get away from. The local tribal scene blends beautifully with
the local sounds or radio or tape music and potluck that is there for all to indulge in.
Sometimes you just drive around in the forest for hours, looking at the different hues of
color and shade among the trees and foliage along the streams running amok. There are days
when you don't even use the gun to shoot with (except of course to bring something for the
kitchen) and instead look through a camera. These are everlasting images embedded very
deeply and I am going to share some with you.