Try to picture our camp of white tents in the foothills of Himalaya at Bindukehra, a camping site ,surrounded by ‘Flame of Forests’ and other beautiful flowers sandwiched between densely wooded hills and snow capped Himalayas.
This twelve by ten miles patch of grass land used to be cultivated when Sir. Henry Ramsay was the King of Kumaon.I was leading the visitors seated in ‘Howdahs’ on the back of seventeen elephants when suddenly the heavy high velocity rifle of one of the spectators sitting behind me went off scorching the inner lining of my left ear and bursting the ear drums. My life during this February of 1929 became very miserable I have narrated this incident as it has a direct bearing on the story I am about to unfold.
Visits to doctors gave me no relief but only confirmed that abscesses were forming in my head.
The Deputy Commissioners of Almora and Nainital Bills Baynes and Ham Vivian were badly affected by man-eating tigers in the areas of their jurisdiction. The former was in Talla Desh, Almora and the latter in Nainital. As the Baynes ‘man-eater’ was more active these days, on 4th of April, 1929, I along with my six Garhwalis proceeded on a route march of 14 miles to Kathgodam to catch the evening train for Tanakpur. Here the peshkar informed me that a boy was killed on the previous day by Talla Desh man-eater Baynes had instructed to send two young buffalos to Champawat to be used as bait and further that no kill was to be removed without my approval. My next destination was Kaladhunga, a twenty four miles walk, twelve of which was through the forest.
To reach Tall Desh we had to scale now 4000 ft. of steepest climb in the mid summer of April, By evening we reached a hamlet frequented by the man-eater. We halted there for the night. My men lodged behind the locked doors and I on my camp bed near the spring with my rifle and candle. Unless disturbed the tiger may be near the kill made on the 4th although it was 6th now. Next morning I loaded my rifle with five rounds and walked to a village called Tamali where a woman had been killed some twenty days ago.
I walked another four miles to Talla Kote Here also a woman had been killed on 5th.The tiger, save the teeth, had not left even a stitch of victim’s cloth. Dungar Singh, seventeen years old son of the victim led me to the place where his mother was killed, a place some 1000 yards away and 1000 to 1500 feet below in the valley under an oak tree. I had asked Dungar Singh to whisper in my right ear or indicate with his hands as my hearing was defective. Suddenly he stopped because his brother from the saddle of the hill was indicating that something red was lying in the barren land below.
Crawling on hands and knees we reached to the edge of the field and saw two tigers fast asleep at ten feet’s apart I fired at the farther one first some 120yards away. It never moved but the second one was up in a flash and jumped on a five foot bank of earth, looking back at its companion and at my shot reared up and slipped backwards in the rainwater channel out of sight. Suddenly I noticed a third much heavier tiger racing through the field. I sighted the aim at 200yards and no sooner it came out of the weeds. I fired. It fell down motionless and slipped down to an oak tree. A little later as the tiger moved again and I fired but it vanished in the trees. I had gone some 50ft. down to see the rainwater channel when Dungar Singh shouted at me pointing towards the escaping tiger. It was lame and unable to move more than four or five steps at a time. It was the same tiger which had fallen in to the rainwater channel and was hurt in the shoulder on the left hand side. Taking aim at 300yards sight I fired and the tiger lurched forward but continued to move. The night was approaching fast and it was dangerous to follow a wounded tiger now. But there remained no doubt that the man-eater was this tigress and the other two shot earlier were her cubs. Physically I was in an awful condition, able to see with my left eye only.. Meanwhile, my abscess had burst giving me great relief. Back in the village I had several hours sleep and much needed rest .While I was asleep Dunger Singh had come to inform me that the tigress had killed six goats and led me to the place of killings. As there was no tree nearby I sat down near a rock waiting for her to appear which she did shortly. As I shot the tigress she jumped up and raced to the flat ground depriving me of another shot... I followed her blood trail and was just three yards from the bracken that I noticed her in the act of springing on me. But my bullet caught her first passing through head to tail and the second broke her neck.