The Shimla hills are famous for ghost stories, but some ‘believe it or not’ tales are popular only among the inhabitants. The protagonists of these legends are people who exaggerate about their bravery and end up being the butt of everyone’s jokes. During the recent summer vacation, I heard a couple of these accounts I’d like to share with readers.
Hunting is a favourite pastime in the hills. Killing a ‘sher’ or ‘braag’ (as the leopard is called in the mountains) is the greatest honour a hunter can think of. Old-timers take pride in narrating stories where they were part of a group that killed a leopard; but the “courage” of one person stands out, even though he didn’t kill the beast.
A man goes for hunting in the evening when pheasants retreat for the night on tree branches. With a gun in his hands, he chooses a place to sit, from where he can take aim at the birds. It’s almost dark and he sits on the exposed root of a deodar tree, waiting for the prey.
Soon, he spots the pheasants, perching slowly upwards on a tree, at a distance. Once the bouquet settles, he takes aim and fires a shot. As he sees a bird falling to the ground, the ground beneath him shakes and tumbles him a few metres downhill. It is at this point that the hunter realises that he was sitting not on a root but on the tail of a leopard!
Worse, the leopard flees with the kill. The protagonist is still alive, and only the lucky ones get a chance to hear the story from the horse’s mouth.
The other story is about a farmer, who prefers to plough at night to avoid toiling in the sun during the day. He starts from his house towards the field with two oxen and a plough. After reaching the ground, he enjoys a smoke as the cattle grazes at a distance. He pulls the pair by the ears to bring it under the plough and starts the night shift.
As birds start chirping early in the morning, he takes the next bidi break. He is surprised to see one of the oxen still grazing at a distance, and two under the plough. He takes a closer look and realises that one of the oxen under the plough is actually a bear!
Whether or not these stories are true, I can’t say, but the tales surely give us a chance to enjoy a hearty laugh. Humour is the spice of life, they say.