For the first time ever, in recognition of International Tiger Day (July 29) and World Lion Day (August 10) and the impending arrival of cheetahs to Kuno, DiJ got the “big four” members of the cat family to share their views on the matter.
DiJ: We start with the cheetahs — they will soon be our guests after all. So, Speedy are you looking forward to you sojourn in India?
Cheetah: Man, I don’t know. You shot all of us the last time our species were here… That is not good for blood pressure, no?
Leopard (grinning evilly): Yes, and they have no recent experience of India… By the way, five or six of us have already sneaked into Kuno and are waiting to welcome them with garlands.
Tiger: Hmm… I believe they’ve stocked the place with good venison. Might be worth a look — and if we like it, Speedy here will have to chase chickens and goats.
Lion (roaring): This is nothing but land-grab! Kuno was earmarked for us not these effeminate fellows. We’re already spilling out of our territory and have to sneak into villages stealing goats and buffelows… If some COVID-19 like virus breaks out it will kill us all. Is that how you treat the King of Beasts? Our sentiments have been hurt!
Leopard: King? Hah! Sits farting on his backside all day making his women do all the work. Like so many of the men here do.
Lion: Serving meals is women’s work…
Tiger: You all are forgetting one thing: I am still the National Animal!
Lion: And I am on the Ashoka pillar and the new Parliament building… not you!
Leopard (grinning): Oh, so that was you? I thought it was one of those Angry Bird fellows.
DiJ: Okay, fellows, Speedy wants to say something.
Cheetah: I can outrun you all, so why should I worry? Zero to 100 kmph in three seconds! Beat that! Besides, I am an honoured guest and you believe in athiti-devo-bhava.
Tiger: Out in the field, all bets are off! And you can run for only 30 seconds.
Leopard: And you can bet Kuno is going to be riddled with potholes. They can’t keep brand-new expressways pothole-free for more than three days after they’ve been inaugurated. We’re going to see some spectacular somersaults! Besides, who said you are our guests? You are immigrants!
Cheetah (proudly): Our feet hardly touch the ground when we run. We are just a blur — sheer poetry in motion! Ghazals will be composed about us! We will star in Bollywood chase scenes!
Tiger: I like it! Let Speedy do all the poetry then, we just move in and take possession of the kill.
Lion: Taking possession? That’s my privilege. That’s what we do. So, we have the first option! And we lions kill the likes of Spotty here too…
Leopard (snarling): Oye, who are you calling Spotty? You might sneak around villages near Gir stealing goats and buffaloes but we are Borivali ke Mumbaikars. You won’t last 30 seconds there! Khaali-peeli-bum-marta-hain! Grow a proper beard first, then talk!
DiJ: Okay guys, calm down. Speedy, do you think you will be able to settle down comfortably here? They’re going to keep these other fellows out of your enclosures, so you can live and hunt in peace.
Cheetah: Thank you.
DiJ: Big ministers and their families will definitely fly over you in fleets of helicopters to see how you’re doing.
Leopard: Yeah, like American helicopter-gunships over Vietnam! Enjoy!
Tiger (grinning sardonically): And, then they’ll hold cheetah-shows like they did for us tigers. Twenty Gypsies surrounding us with jabbering hordes trying to take selfies with us and thinking they are Rambos! We made them wet their pants!
DiJ: Loinji, what do you think… oh he’s dozed off!
Lion: Eh? Was meditating…
DiJ: We hope you will cooperate when all the Ministerjis, including the PMji, come to see you. Show them how fast you can run… it will make you even more famous… Even the ED and CBI won’t be able to nab you!
Tiger (interrupting, eyes glinting and suddenly growling): Actually, you people have been responsible for our current situation: You killed over 95 per cent of us in the last century and then launched Project Tiger! Bah!
Lion: You’re complaining? We were down to 12 or so and had to mate with our cousin sisters to survive. Izzat ka faluda ha gaya (honour went for a toss)!
Leopard: You develop biodiversity parks and then when we try to move in, transfer us to the boondocks!
Cheetah: You killed us all and now want us back so you can do it all over again (razor sharp claws are unsheathed. Deep malevolent growls and snarls rumble into a chant).
All four big cats: Hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite!
DiJ: Boys, boys, easy now. Down, down, sit… stay!!
Tiger: Now he treats us like dogs! As if we are Pomeranians!
Leopard (licking his chops): My favourite dish!
Lion: I’m king! I get the first bite!
Cheetah: No. I, I’m your honored guest! Serve me first! (A catfight begins)
DiJ (relieved, smiles at the camera): Ah… they are just like us, aren’t they?