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Updated: April 1, 2013 20:36 IST

Tall tales you cannot miss

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Go on an unexpected tour of campsites and be visited by tigers, leopards, crocodiles and more.

Cooks and Khansamas tell a good tale. Simply because they have lived in so many different houses and seen so many different kinds of people. And if the khansama worked with Jim Corbett, his stories will definitely be much better than the usual ones.

In Tigers For Dinner, Tall Tales by Jim Corbett’s Khansama, Ruskin Bond recounts the stories that he has heard. Bond’s rendition of the tale is simple and picturesque, but his language and style make you want to linger on every word and every line, bringing a smile to your face. Bond’s inimitable style takes you over hill and dale, into dark forests and wooden bungalows.

There are seven stories, but don’t skip the Introduction. Meet Mehmoud the khansama, who came to work in Bond’s house with a testimonial from none other than Jim Corbett. They had no doubt that it was genuine, however, Mehmoud’s tales were another thing. Ruskin Bond says, “…like all good storytellers, Mehmoud was given to a little exaggeration, so we must allow him some poetic license.” Mehmoud’s stories about “Carpet” sahib will keep you turning pages in between your guffaws.

In the wild

He begins with an interesting tale of a man-eating tiger creeping into Corbett’s camp and making away with the masalchi (a kitchen help). But when the tiger returns for Mehmoud, a couple of days later, it was time for him to act. And did the khansama act! He was on the job in double quick time with his most handy ‘weapon’.

The next story Exciting Encounters begins with Ruskin Bond asking Mehmoud about Corbett’s favourite dish. “Oh, he like roast duck. Used to shoot them as they flew up from the jheel.” It was another campsite – one near a crocodile-infested lake. One night he finds himself and his bed moving at a rather dangerous speed towards the water! How could that be?

Good shot Mehmoud, is hilarious in its telling. Mehmoud shoots a leopard and that’s only because Corbett is busy drinking mango milkshake! Puzzled? Guess you have to read the story to not only find out why, but to also laugh your guts out. Wrestling a King Cobra is another story where a cobra finds a comfortable place in Mehmoud’s bed! Wherever you go, always remember to carry your own pillow. Mehmoud tells you why in The Face beneath the Pillow. How does Mehmoud come to possess a tiger claw? Did he shoot the tiger? ‘Did you wrestle with a tiger?’

‘No, Baba, I’m no match for a tiger. If I see a tiger, I run – I have strong legs, but now that particular day, I couldn’t even run, I was alone in the bungalow and this tiger was coming for me.

It was a man-eater all right, and I think it had come to take its revenge because of all the man-eaters that Carpet-sahib had shot.’

Finally, it is time to say goodbye to the tigers, crocodiles, wild boars, leopards and all the other creatures Mehmoud has met when camping with “Carpet” sahib, for Mehmoud retires. But all is not lost. He leaves behind a few wise sayings that are sure to help readers in their life’s journey.

One such nugget to leave you with: ‘To find adventure, follow a strange road or try a new dish.’ There are a few more, but then you have to read the book to find out!

TIGERS FOR DINNER, Tall Tales By Jim Corbett’s Khansama, Ruskin Bond, Red Turtle, Rs. 195

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