The capture of an elephant
Very rough ride to the interior of the forest where a hundred pits had been dug, and two elephants captured: a baby tusker, about 3 years old, in one pit; and an elephant mother, about 25 years old, in another. The baby was being fed, but not the mother (if she regained her strength she would make it difficult to get her out of the pit). The roping, the first and most important part of the capture, is a delicate undertaking. The trapped elephants are wild ones to begin with, but their increased wildness, their rage at having been caught, makes them a frightening sight. To distract the captured elephant, he is fed sugar cane, and large tropical leaves are waved at him. Once the rope is tied around the head and leg, large logs are rolled into the pit, which enables the men to pull him out of the pit. Two kunkis (tame, trained elephants) surround the captured one when he comes out of the pit; their presence calms the wild elephant and gives him reassurance.
Another tiger hunt
Today's hunt was different. The hunting party consisted of HH, Major Singh, two aides, Mr. Darasha (HH's secretary); I was the only woman; 80 beaters, a spacious sunny area in front of the machan. The beating had not lasted more than 20 minutes when tiger growls were heard from behind a bush very near the machan. He did not come out, but it was evident from the rustling among the bushes that he ran way over to the left, about 80 yards away. The bushes were heavy, and I did not even catch a glimpse of the tiger, but HH fired and said: "I am certain he is dead." Major Singh was skeptical if the tiger had been hit at all. The lorry was brought, was driven into the bush, and suddenly there was wild cheering: the tiger was dead: I cannot understand how HH could have shot so accurately under these circumstances; no one had actually seen the tiger running or hiding.
The tiger turned out to be the maharaja's record, and came very close to India's record. Six feet nine inches long, he weighed over 600 pounds. HH was so pleased and excited he could not eat his lunch. I was pleased, too, which surprised me, as I am never pleased to see an animal killed.
After a flight to Trivandrum
I went to see a doctor (I have had a nasty skin irritation) who refused to look directly at me, and who was most embarrassed when I asked him to examine the spots on my thighs—the irritation had spread all over. Nevertheless, although he scarcely examined me, he promises a complete cure within two days.
Everyone has gone to a famous astrologer in a nearby village; retained by one of two wealthy Trivandrum families, he is supposed to be very good. It was suggested that I go along with them, but I refused. If something terrible is supposed to happen to me I would rather not know beforehand.
In the Gir Forest, Saurashtra
I have come to Saurashtra as a guest of state and was received most cordially. The Gir Forest is one of the few lion reserves left in India, and the people in the surrounding villages are proud of the forest. The villagers take pride in their lions. There is a superstition here that if the lions were to leave this vicinity, the buffalo cows would cease to give milk; and also that if a cow is attacked by a lion but survives, she ceases to conceive.
Nilgai—the large antelopes of India—look like giraffes in these parts. What makes them look so large is the smallness of the thorny trees, which must be some kind of acacia; these, the burnt yellow grass, the wide open spaces are reminiscent of the African plains.