Friday, 23 October 2009
The Tiger Of Vizianagaram
Disclaimer: This is a work of Fiction. :)
"What is the most intriguing thing in the world?" asked the old man breathing his last.
His forehead showed three parallel streaks on the loose skin as the brows moved in together, yet his visage showed an unusual serenity. He gestured to his youngest son while lying on a wooden cot to bring him the dagger resting on the table as his elder son looked on sitting beside him. As the crying lad, with his eyes raining like the blackest of the clouds, moved to grab the shining, sharp metal he thought of the men in uniform who had chased down a group of helpless men last night, abusing and hitting as bad as they could. One of the helpless men being his old, crippled father, Dantuluri Govindraju, respectfully known as Guru garu.
As Dhananjaya, presented the dagger to his father forwarding both his hands on which it was loosely held, the dying man gave a faint smile and said, “You are my strong Dhanu.”
He then looked onto the solemn face of Narayana as if to tell him to take good care of his younger brother after him. Narayana could read his eyes and replied with a weak nod. “You remember the ‘Tiger of Bobbili’ , that I had taught you about?” he asked, without expecting an answer in return as he knew the answer would be in a ‘yes’. He remembered the faces of his students when he used to narrate them the tale of the Tiger of Bobbili. He continued, in a dull, cracked voice unlike his classroom lectures which used to be full of animation, “The valorous Tiger of Bobbili did not kill himself like the other citizens of Bobbili. He not only fought his kingdom back but also through his intelligence and bravery earned himself a title of ‘Tiger’.”
The two brothers listened in silence remembering the story which their father had taught them the whole life. They remembered the quick movements their father used to make with his right arm, the only arm he had, in the classroom of Maharaja Vidyalaya. Guru garu continued holding the dagger in the same arm, “Alas! The time is near, the time when our country will need such tigers, not one, not two, but in hundred and thousands. That Tiger after more than a hundred years should be reborn among you and your brothers.”
He handed the dagger by its grip to Narayana while Dhanunjaya moved forward, raised his hand and put on the dagger’s grip over his brothers palm. They clutched it tightly while looking at each other when the same weak voice continued, “It’s a decade since the resistance first started. We must not forget Tatya Tope’s valor or Rani Lakshmi Bai’s sacrifice.”
Dhanunjaya until now had the few British men in his mind to be avenged for his father’s condition but suddenly a greater reason took over. But he was confused as such incidents had rarely occurred in Vizianagaram, at least not in his lifetime. It had been quite a peaceful town, developing with traders and education institutions. Ironically, Maharaja Vidyalaya was founded in 1857, the year of the mutiny.
“I never told the stories of our forerunners just to your amusement,” continued his father, “But I have no more time left of me to teach you further. I foresee a time when such incidents will grow to larger proportions and suffering will be common. Realizing about it then will be too late to act. Take this dagger and use it when necessary, not for flaunting your power but for freedom. Its time for me to go.”
The teenage brothers sat there when their father asked them the last question, “What is the most intriguing thing in the world?”
He answered himself with a smile, “Death, especially if you die for your motherland.”
Narayana and Dhanunjaya stared as his father faced the most fascinating thing in the world. He had left behind him two burning torches.
Narayana lived the next forty-six years of his life teaching and nurturing young minds with the lesson that his father had taught them on his death bed.
Dhanunjaya, the very next year being only 14 then, avenged his father’s killers and later on formed a group of guerilla fighters and went on to fight against the Englishmen. In 1899, at the age of 54, after a long one-on-one fight, he was martyred by a young sepoy. Dhanunjaya’s valor and courage were being compared to that of Tipu Sultan, another ‘Tiger’ who fought until death exactly one hundred years ago in Seringapatnam.