1. I WILL begin with Bruno, my wife's pet sloth bear. I
got him for her by accident.
Two years ago we were passing through the
sugarcane fields near Mysore. People were driving
away the wild pigs from the fields by shooting at
them. Some were shot and some escaped. We
thought that everything was over when suddenly a
black sloth bear came out panting in the hot sun.
2. Now I will not shoot a sloth bear wantonly but,
unfortunately for the poor beast, one of my
companions did not feel that way about it, and
promptly shot the bear on the spot.
3. As we watched the fallen animal we were
surprised to see that the black fur on its back moved
and left the prostrate body. Then we saw it was a
baby bear that had been riding on its mother's back
when the sudden shot had killed her. The little
creature ran around its prostrate parent making a
4. I ran up to it to attempt a capture. It scooted
into the sugarcane field. Following it with my
companions, I was at last able to grab it by the
scruff of its neck while it snapped and tried to
scratch me with its long, hooked claws.
5. We put it in one of the gunny-bags we had brought
and when I got back to Bangalore I duly presented it
to my wife. She was delighted! She at once put a
coloured ribbon around its neck, and after discovering
the cub was a 'boy' she christened it Bruno.
6. Bruno soon took to drinking milk from a bottle.
It was but a step further and within a very few
days he started eating and drinking everything else.
And everything is the right word, for he ate porridge
made from any ingredients, vegetables, fruit, nuts,
meat (especially pork), curry and rice regardless of
condiments and chillies, bread, eggs, chocolates,
sweets, pudding, ice-cream, etc., etc., etc. As for
drink: milk, tea, coffee, lime-juice, aerated water,
buttermilk, beer, alcoholic liquor and, in fact,
anything liquid. It all went down with relish.
7. The bear became very attached to our two
Alsatian dogs and to all the children of the tenants
living in our bungalow. He was left quite free in his
younger days and spent his time in playing, running
into the kitchen and going to sleep in our beds.
8. One day an accident befell him. I put down poison
(barium carbonate) to kill the rats and mice that
had got into my library. Bruno entered the library
as he often did, and he ate some of the poison.
Paralysis set in to the extent that he could not stand
on his feet. But he dragged himself on his stumps
to my wife, who called me. I guessed what had
happened. Off I rushed in the car to the vet's
residence. A case of poisoning! Tame Bear - barium
carbonate - what to do?
9. Out came his medical books, and a feverish
reference to index began: "What poison did you say,
sir?" "Barium carbonate". "Ah yes - B - Ba - Barium
Salts - Ah! Barium carbonate! Symptoms -
paralysis - treatment - injections of . .. Just a
minute, sir. I'll bring my syringe and the medicine."
A dash back to the car. Bruno still floundering
about on his stumps, but clearly weakening rapidly;
some vomiting, heavy breathing, with heaving flanks
and gaping mouth.
10. Hold him, everybody! In goes the hypodermic -
Bruno squeals - 10 c.c. of the antidote enters his
system without a drop being wasted. Ten minutes
later: condition unchanged! Another 10 c.c. injected!
Ten minutes later: breathing less stertorous -
Bruno can move his arms and legs a little although
he cannot stand yet. Thirty minutes later: Bruno
gets up and has a great feed! He looks at us
disdainfully, as much as to say, 'What's barium
carbonate to a big black bear like me?' Bruno is
11. Another time he found nearly one gallon of old
engine oil which I had drained from the sump of
the Studebaker and was keeping as a weapon
against the inroads of termites. He promptly drank
the lot. But it had no ill effects whatever.
12. The months rolled on and Bruno had grown many
times the size he was when he came. He had
equalled the Alsatians in height and had even
outgrown them. But was just as sweet, just as
mischievous, just as playful. And he was very fond
of us all. Above all, he loved my wife, and she loved
him too! She had changed his name from Bruno, to
Baba, a Hindustani word signifying 'small boy'. And
he could do a few tricks, too. At the command, 'Baba,
wrestle', or 'Baba, box,' he vigorously tackled anyone
who came forward for a rough and tumble. Give
him a stick and say 'Baba, hold gun', and he pointed
the stick at you. Ask him, 'Baba, where's baby?'
and he immediately produced and cradled
affectionately a stump of wood which he had
carefully concealed in his straw bed. But because
of the tenants' children, poor Bruno, or Baba, had
to be kept chained most of the time.
13. Then my son and I advised my wife, and friends
advised her too, to give Baba to the zoo at Mysore.
He was getting too big to keep at home. After some
weeks of such advice she at last consented. Hastily,
and before she could change her mind, a letter was
written to the curator of the zoo. Did he want a
tame bear for his collection? He replied, "Yes". The
zoo sent a cage from Mysore in a lorry, a distance
of eighty-seven miles, and Baba was packed off.
14. We all missed him greatly; but in a sense we
were relieved. My wife was inconsolable. She wept
and fretted. For the first few days she would not
eat a thing. Then she wrote a number of letters to
the curator. How was Baba? Back came the replies,
"Well, but fretting; he refuses food too."
bitterly; even the hardened curator and the keepers
15. After that, friends visiting Mysore were begged
to make a point of going to the zoo and seeing how
Baba was getting along. They reported that he was
well but looked very thin and sad. All the keepers
at the zoo said he was fretting. For three months I
managed to restrain my wife from visiting Mysore.
Then she said one day, "I must see Baba. Either
you take me by car; or I will go myself by bus or
train." So I took her by car.
16. Friends had conjectured that the bear would
not recognise her. I had thought so too. But while
she was yet some yards from his cage Baba saw
her and recognised her. He howled with happiness.
She ran up to him, petted him through the bars,
and he stood on his head in delight.
17. For the next three hours she would not leave
that cage. She gave him tea, lemonade, cakes, icecream
and what not. Then 'closing time' came and
we had to leave. My wife cried bitterly; Baba cried
bitterly; even the hardened curator and the keepers
felt depressed. As for me, I had reconciled myself to
what I knew was going to happen next.
18. "Oh please, sir," she asked the curator, "may I
have my Baba back"? Hesitantly, he answered,
"Madam, he belongs to the zoo and is Government
property now. I cannot give away Government
property. But if my boss, the superintendent
at Bangalore agrees, certainly you may have
19. There followed the return journey to Bangalore
and a visit to the superintendent's bungalow. A
tearful pleading: "Baba and I are both fretting for
each other. Will you please give him back to me?"
He was a kind-hearted man and consented.
Not only that, but he wrote to the curator telling
him to lend us a cage for transporting the bear
20. Back we went to Mysore again, armed with the
superintendent's letter. Baba was driven into a
small cage and hoisted on top of the car; the cage
was tied securely, and a slow and careful return
journey to Bangalore was accomplished.
21. Once home, a squad of coolies were engaged for
special work in our compound. An island was made
for Baba. It was twenty feet long and fifteen feet
wide, and was surrounded by a dry pit, or moat, six
feet wide and seven feet deep. A wooden box that
once housed fowls was brought and put on the
island for Baba to sleep in at night. Straw was placed
inside to keep him warm, and his 'baby', the gnarled
stump, along with his 'gun', the piece of bamboo,
both of which had been sentimentally preserved
since he had been sent away to the zoo, were put
back for him to play with.
22. In a few days the coolies hoisted the cage on to
the island and Baba was released. He was delighted;
standing on his hindlegs, he pointed his 'gun' and
cradled his 'baby'. My wife spent hours sitting on a
chair there while he sat on her lap. He was fifteen
months old and pretty heavy too!
23. The way my wife reaches the island and leaves
it is interesting. I have tied a rope to the overhanging
branch of a mango tree with a loop at its end. Putting
one foot in the loop, she kicks off with the other, to
bridge the six-foot gap that constitutes the width of
the surrounding pit. The return journey is made
the same way. But who can say now that a sloth
bear has no sense of affection, no memory and no
The Snake Trying.
Most of us think of snakes as fearsome symbols of death.
But the snake in this poem is itself a victim.
Author: W.W.E. ROSS
The snake trying
to escape the pursuing stick,
with sudden curvings of thin
long body. How beautiful
and graceful are his shapes!
He glides through the water away
from the stroke. O let him go
over the water
into the reeds to hide
without hurt. Small and green
he is harmless even to children.
Along the sand
he lay until observed
and chased away, and now
he vanishes in the ripples
among the green slim reeds.
Author: B.R. LAKSHMAN RAO
Early morning, the day before yesterday,
under a slab of stone,
in a crack,
forked tongue licking and flashing,
a frog swelling his belly,
he lay there quietly:
a baby snake, two hands long,
a green snake.
"Poor thing. It's a green snake. Still a baby.
What harm can it do?" I said.
My father replied,
"A snake's a snake."
"That's where everyone walks.
We don't need trouble. Kill it."
"I can't," I said.
Father struck him with a piece of firewood,
chased him outside,
and killed him flat.
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