I was walking down the road after watching a cricket match. As I passed an open space by the side of the road, I felt an urge to relive the moments I had witnessed in the match. Picking up a coconut shell, I ‘bowled’ it vigorously, at a solitary palm tree with a pile of rubbish some distance behind it. The shell missed the tree, bounced high in the air, and disappeared behind the rubbish-heap.
What appeared from behind the rubbish-heap left me speechless? It was a full grown tiger with enormous whiskers which reminded me of someone but I couldn’t think who; and teeth which made me wish I was safely in bed with the sheet pulled over my head. As it stood glaring at me, it swished its tail from side to side, which is a tiger’s way of saying it disliked having things hurled at it. Then it let out a mighty roar and sprang as if to pounce on me, but it changed its mind in mid-air, and landed just short of where I stood, terrified. It paused, its whiskers twitching and, as it looked me in the eye, it lifted one eyebrow accusingly.
“Well”, it seemed to ask, “What have you to say for yourself?”
Without knowing why, I threw my arms around the tiger’s neck and began to tickle it behind the ears. “Prrf”, said the tiger in a satisfied manner, which made me feel bold enough to speak.
“Tiger Wiger”, I said politely, “I want to make it quite clear, I did not throw that coconut shell at you. I was aiming at the palm tree, but missed, for which I apologize profusely, and promise not to fling anything in your direction, ever again.” I continued to tickle the tiger behind the ears, and it continued to say “Prrf”, with short pauses in between. It reminded me of Moses, my pussy cat, who also liked to be tickled behind the ears, and purred in much the same way as the tiger said “Prrf”, except that Moses’s voice wasn’t quite as deep as the tiger’s.
“Dear old Tiger Wiger, I see you like being spoken to, and having yourself tickled”, I observed with relief.
“Prrf”, agreed the tiger.
“But we can’t go on like this in the middle of the road", I objected. "What would people think?” This time it did not say “Prrf”. Instead there was a low, warning growl which came rumbling from deep within the creature’s huge chest. I understood this to mean it was displeased, and that it wanted me to go on talking to, and tickling, it. It frightened me. It frightened me more than when the beast had sprung at me with a mighty roar. I thought of my mother and how annoyed she was going to be. Someone was bound to tell her that I had got into trouble again. People had a knack of noticing whenever I landed in trouble, and they never missed the opportunity to report it to my mother. In no time at all, she would be there, standing over me with her hands on her hips.
“Is this what you get up to, the moment I take my eyes off you?” she would say. “Where did you get hold of that fearsome looking animal? Send it away and come home at once. And don’t you dare bring it along with you.”
I didn’t know whether to be more afraid of the ‘fearsome looking animal’, or my mother. That terrifying deep throated growl told me that if I stopped talking to the tiger and tickling its ears, it would be furious. Yet, if I stayed where I was, with my arms around its neck, talking to it politely, my mother would be furious. So I really didn’t know what to do. Then I felt the tiger tugging hard, as though it had had enough of my company and wanted to get away. It made me happy to think so, because it would allow me to go home without having to answer awkward questions from my mother.
I let go of the tiger, and waited. There was a loud bump, and a childish voice said: “Ouch grandpa, did you do that on purpose?”
I blinked and looked around. Everything had changed. There was no tiger, no palm tree and no rubbish heap. Through habit, I groped for something which I knew would help me understand what was going on. It was my spectacles. Putting them on, I saw a little girl getting up off the floor. She held a pillow in one hand and, with the other, she tenderly rubbed her behind. It was my granddaughter Tehmina. So I had changed from a sprightly stripling, to a ‘grandpa’, all in the twinkling of an eye.
“Grandpa, what on earth were you doing to that pillow?” enquired Tehmina, her voice full of concern. "I had to pull hard, to get it away from you before you ruined it with the way you were hugging it and plucking at it with your fingers. Then you suddenly let go, and I fell down on my sit-upon, and now it’s ever so sore. Anyway, what were you dreaming about this time?” demanded the little one saucily, and the way she stood, with her hands upon her hips, again reminded me of someone. Why yes, the someone was my mother, who happened to be the great grandmother of Tehmina and, would you believe it, she too was called Tehmina.
“Come on Grandpa”, urged young Tehmina, “tell me your dream. I love listening to you telling me your dreams. I’m sure you make up most of it, as you go along. But never mind, you’re allowed to do that, as long as you make it exciting.”
“Alright”, I agreed, “I’ll tell you what I dreamt. Just give me a minute to gather my wits.”
I reached for the stick I’ve had to use ever since my knees turned wobbly. I also needed to fetch my dentures and get them properly in place if it was to be a really good story. As I picked up the dentures, I caught sight of my face in the bathroom mirror and wondered where else I had seen such splendid whiskers. Ah yes, on Tiger Wiger of course.
Now let’s hope the story I tell Tehmina, comes up to her expectations.
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