‘The Tiger King’ is a satire on the conceit of those in power. The story is a good mix of the supernatural, humour and irony. The Tiger King has been magical from his birth. His arrogance takes him on a path of destruction of the tiger population.
The Maharaja of Pratibandapuram is the hero of this story. He also came to be known as Tiger King. As soon as he was born, astrologers or the others foretold that one day the Tiger King would actually have to die.
A great miracle took place. The ten-day-old Jilani Jung Bahadur spoke very clearly. He told them that all those who were born, would have to die one day. There was nothing new in that. There would be some sense if anyone could tell him the manner of his death. Everyone stood stunned. An infant born just ten days ago was talking in such a manner. The chief astrologer told the prince that he was born in the hour of the Bull. The Bull and the Tiger were enemies. Therefore, his death would come from the tiger.
When the crown prince came of age at twenty, his state came into his hands. There were innumerable forests in the Pratibandapuram State. They had tigers in them. The Maharaja started out on a tiger hunt. The Maharaja was overjoyed when he killed his first tiger. He sent for the state astrologer and showed him the dead beast. The astrologer told that the Maharaja would have to kill ninety-nine more. He must be very careful with the hundredth tiger. The king asked what would happen if the hundredth tiger was also killed. The astrologer declared that he would tear up all his books on astrology and set fire to them.
The state banned tiger hunting by any one except the Maharaja. It anyone dared to disobey, all his wealth and property would be confiscated. The king did face some problems. Sometimes the bullet missed its mark. Once a tiger jumped upon him and he fought the beast with his bare hands. Once a high ranking British officer wished to hunt tigers in Pratibandapuram. But he was refused permission. He could hunt other animals except tigers. The Maharaja stood in danger of losing his kingdom itself. The Maharaja and the Dewan held deliberations over this issue. About fifty expensive diamond rings of different designs were sent to the British officer’s good lady. The king and the minister expected her to choose one or two rings and send the rest back. But she kept all of them and sent a letter of thanks. The Maharaja was happy that though he had lost three lakhs of rupees, he had managed to retain his kingdom. The Maharaja’s tiger hunt continued to be highly successful. Within ten years he had killed seventy tigers.
The king’s mission of killing tigers came to a halt. The tiger population became extinct in the forests of Pratibandapuram. The king decided to marry in the royal family of some state that had a large tiger population. The Dewan found out the right girl. The king married with that girl. Maharaja Jung Bahadur killed five or six tigers each time he visited his father-in-law’s house. In this way ninety nine tiger skins adorned the walls of the reception hall in the Pratibandapuram palace.
There remained just one tiger to be killed to reach the figure of a hundred. If he could kill just one more tiger, the Maharaja would have no fears left. He could give up tiger hunting altogether. He had to be very careful with the last tiger. But the tiger farms had now run dry even in his father-in-law’s kingdom. It became impossible to locate tigers any where. The Maharaja became too sad. The Dewan realised that if the Maharaja didn’t find the tiger soon, the results could be quite dangerous. A tiger was brought from the People’s Park in Chennai. It was brought straight to the forest where Maharaja was hunting. The Maharaja took a careful aim and the tiger fell in a heap. The Maharaja became elated at killing the hundredth tiger. After he had left, the hunters took a closer look at the tiger. The tiger was not dead. They decided that the Maharaja must not know that he had missed the target. So one of the hunters killed the tiger. The dead tiger was taken in procession through the town and buried.
A few days later the Maharaja’s son’s third birthday was celebrated. The Maharaja brought a wooden tiger from a shop as a special gift on his birthday. On that day father and son played with the wooden toy-tiger. Its surface was rough. One of those needle-like slivers pierced the Maharaja’s right hand.
The next day, infection flared in the Maharaja’s right hand. In four days, it developed into a sore emitting pus. It spread all over his arm. Three famous surgeons were brought in from Madras. After holding a consultation, they decided to operate. The operation was successful but the Maharaja died. In this manner the hundredth tiger took its final revenge upon the Tiger King.