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A tiger called TB who never ate grass

I felt saddened when I heard on TV that due to the ban on illegal slaughter houses in UP, tigers deprived of meat were fed bhindi in a zoo. I can understand the helplessness of the zoo keepers, but eating bhindi is beneath the station of a tiger with even a modicum of self respect.

punjab Updated: Mar 28, 2017 16:07 IST
Col IPS Kohli (Retd)
A tiger has a certain image to live up to and, it is not only important for it to look like a tiger, it is also important to eat like one.
A tiger has a certain image to live up to and, it is not only important for it to look like a tiger, it is also important to eat like one.(Representative Image)

I felt saddened when I heard on TV that due to the ban on illegal slaughter houses in UP, tigers deprived of meat were fed bhindi in a zoo. I can understand the helplessness of the zoo keepers, but eating bhindi is beneath the station of a tiger with even a modicum of self respect. A tiger has a certain image to live up to and, it is not only important for it to look like a tiger, it is also important to eat like one. An age old adage ‘Tigers don’t eat grass’, stood demolished. The cruel march of time spares none in its wake. I was reminded of an anecdote.

The brigade commander’s two grown-up and pretty daughters nicknamed their dad TB. Nobody knew what it stood for. No son of a gun had the guts to ask either. Officially his initials were JP. Word spread and soon within the Brigade HQ, behind the commander’s back everybody called him TB. If you called his residence and one of his daughters took the call, she would in all probability ask, ‘Uncle, do you want to speak to TB?’ Soon it became a common practice. A few callers inadvertently enquired if TB sir was available.

The commander pushed the brigade hard for operational perfection. Every possible scenario was ‘war gamed’. Underachievers were told in no uncertain terms that if they failed to come up to his exacting expectations, they should consider an alternate vocation for themselves. Come evening and he would become a different person who believed in partying as hard as he trained for war.

Our fathers had been course mates and, our common love for the ‘good life’ ensured we became instant friends. Boisterous with a ‘hail fellow well met attitude’, one day over a drink he said, “Inder, I do not feel comfortable in the company of teetotallers and vegetarians. I like to have around me men who work hard, drink bloody hard, eat well and start the next day with a clean slate.”

The commander’s wife and my wife Pinky too became friends. Pretences dropped. One day Pinky referred to the commander as TB. His wife broke into peals of laughter and said, “Please Pinky, not you!” She then told my wife the genesis of the word TB. She said her husband has always had the ‘glad eye’. His daughters had cautioned him many times that as the father of two grownup girls; it was high time he mended his ways. The incorrigible ‘old man’ refused to listen. The girls then nicknamed him ‘Tharki Budhha (lecherous old man)’, in short TB. She said instead of taking umbrage, the lecher seemed to like being called ‘TB’.

Over time we realised the nickname TB was a misnomer. The tough, no-nonsense, ‘Party boy’ was proper and decent in social conduct. At best he could be called gregarious and harmlessly flirtatious. Obviously, his daughters had a problem with this behaviour.

The commander’s wife was out of station and TB developed a toothache. He rang me up and said, “Inder, please request Mrs Kohli to send me a bowl of khichdi. I have a problem chewing. Tell her to cook the rice in chicken stock and not to bother about daal. Come over Inder, together we will down it with Scotch.”

It is not for nothing that in the army a commander is called ‘Tiger’ and, no matter how hungry or how great the distress during our times, a tiger worth his salt never ate bhindi. The times, they are a changin.

colipsk@hotmail.com

The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor