The story talks about the author's grandfather, who discovered a tiger cub, in the Terai jungle near Dehra. The town of Dehra was initially a British camp. It is now located in Himachal Pradesh, India. In the nineties, it was very common for men to form hunting groups and trap animals like rabbits or deer.
An aerial view of Dehra
The grandfather had similarly gone to a hunting trip into the forest, with his other group members. He had fallen behind the rest of the group and was wandering alone, observing the surrounding areas of the forest, when he first came across the tiger cub. He was around eighteen inches long, meaning it was very young, probably a newborn that was abandoned in the middle of the forest. He was seen hiding behind the deeply entangled roots of a banyan tree. This shows that he was scared of the outer world and was hiding from the completely new environment. The innocence and pathetic situation of the tiger cub forced the grandfather to take him into his care. In fact, the only person who could lay his hands on any animal on the day of the hunting trip was grandfather, since the others did not get any animal, be it dead or alive. The author emphasizes on the fact that grandfather who had gone to hunt an animal and bring it dead, had managed to bring a wild animal like tiger alive.
The tiger cub was named Timothy by grandmother and since he was a young cub, he was fed milk. The cook Mahmoud fed the tiger in a feeding bottle in a similar fashion to feeding infants and toddlers. But the milk was rich in nutrients for him. He could not take it as he was very young. Therefore he was given meat which is the usual food that a wild animal takes. He was given raw mutton and cod-liver oil, which is a supplement made of fish oil. As he grew up, he was given a lavish meal that included heavy meat like rabbits and pigeons.
Tiger being fed milk in a feeding bottle
The tiger had two companions - Toto the monkey and a small mongrel puppy. The monkey was naughty and bold. When other animals would be sacred to near a tiger, the monkey very easily pulled the tail of the tiger and played with it. When the tiger got angry, the monkey easily climbed up the curtains so that the tiger could not reach him. The mongrel puppy was brought home by grandfather in a similar fashion to the tiger. He was found on the road. Initially, the tiger who is much mightier than the tiger is scared of the tiny puppy that he takes two steps back when it approaches him. He uses his paws for self -efence as he thinks that the puppy is dangerous. But soon there is a turn of events as they become friends to an extent where the puppy is allowed to crawl on his back and rest there.
Monkey playing with tiger
Timothy, being brought up amidst human beings, loves to go behind people who played with him. Unlike other tigers who would eye on humans to make a meal out of them, Timothy exhibits the characteristics of a puppy, who follows people who played with him. Therefore when the narrator plays with him when he is visiting grandfather, he follows behind him, seeking more attention. The narrator thus becomes the tiger's favourites. His way of playing with the narrator involves both caution and fun. He takes time to understand the narrator's mood and slowly creeps closer to him. His eyes would glitter with the enthusiasm of a child and when he sees the opportunity to get any closer, he rolls over his back and pretends to bite the narrator's ankles. This was only to tease and have fun with him and was taken on a lighter note.
*A tiger playing with man
As days passed by, Timothy grew big that the author compares his size to that of a dog breed named retriever. When he was taken out for walks, he was chained like a pet dog taken out for walking. But the situation was slightly different from that of a puppy taken out for a stroll, as people found it dangerous and gave them a wide space to walk on the road. They found the situation unusual and therefore, did not want to take any risk with their lives. The narrator himself was faced with a tough situation since the tiger who had grown into a strong animal, pulled on the chain and he was not able to control it and walk along with him. Timothy loved the drawing-room in the house, as it was the centre of all attention in the house. He made himself comfortable on the sofa, lying there like a king overseeing his subjects. He showed so much dignity and poise, and was aggressive when anyone asked him to move him from his place. He slowly starts showing his dominance and powerful attitude, in spite of being in a tamed environment.
A full-grown retriever
Timothy had very clean habits that made him similar to a cat. Although tigers belong to the cat family, they are wild and can be less bothered about hygiene. But a cat always licks himself and makes sure that he cleans himself. Similarly, Timothy being brought up in the human environment, scrubs his face, with his paws, thereby cleaning himself like a cat. He also slept in the night with Mahmoud the cook and was let out by him in the morning. This was quite unusual for a tiger to sleep in the same premises as a man, and not harming him. But grandmother had her own doubts, as she remarks that things may change in a day and Timothy might become his wild self, eating the cook, leaving only his shoes and clothes behind.
Tiger scrubbing himself
As Timothy grew into a full-sized tiger, his behaviour started changing from a tamed cub to a ferocious beast. When he was around six months old, he started taking the characteristics of a wild tiger and leaned towards his original nature. Tigers, in general, are ferocious and meat eating. No amount of taming could suppress the inborn nature of Timothy. He grew less friendly. When the narrator took him out for the usual walk, he started showing a change in attitude.
He started following pet cats and dogs. Although he did not cause any harm to the pets, he would sneak and eat a chicken. The narrator could only hear the scared cackling sound of the chicken trying to escape from the tiger's clutches. In the morning only the feathers of the chicken would remain. Grandfather gave Timothy the meat of rabbits and pigeons. But his wild nature does not permit him to wait patiently for food given at a particular interval of time, and therefore he hunts it down himself. He had to be chained more often because of the fear that he may cause any damage. But things took a turn when the tiger started eyeing Mahmoud the cook with a villainous look and started following him around. When eating animals could be excused, the life of a human being could not be put at risk. Taking this into consideration, the grandfather decides to take the tiger to a zoo.
Tiger catching a chicken
Grandfather had to book a special compartment for him to take the tiger to the zoo. He took the first class compartment all by himself since people were scared to travel along with a tiger. Timothy was taken to the Lucknow zoo where the authorities were happy to see a tiger that was already tamed, healthy and civilized one, compared to the wild and ferocious ones that they usually have to deal with. After six months he goes to the zoo when he is visiting his relatives in Lucknow. He sees the tiger in the same cage he had left him to get trained. By now he is a fully grown tiger with a magnificent striped coat. He sees him crouching in one corner of the cage.
Tiger in a zoo
Grandfather was excited to see Timothy after a long gap of six months. As soon as the tiger saw him, he came near the bars and allowed himself to be stroked in the head by him. Grandfather put both his hands into the bar, without any fear and stroked the tiger's forehead and tickled his ears. This was a routine between them when Timothy was with him. He does not forget this practice even after meeting him after a long time. The tiger had grown so used to grandfather's ways and even allowed to be smacked across the face whenever he growled. This was again an old method he used, to keep him quiet. Grandfather does not have the slightest doubt or fear when he does this to the tiger.
The tiger licks grandfather's hands and welcomes him. He also seems to be happy to see him. The only factor that stops him is a ferocious leopard from the next cage, who snarled at him. Grandfather had to shoo the leopard away from him. When the leopard was no where near him, the tiger resumed licking grandfather's hands. But when he came back, he again became meek. This had to continue for a while until a number of people who were visiting the zoo gathered around to watch the reunion of the tiger and grandfather.
The keeper of the zoo was shocked at the incidents happening around the cage and came rushing in. Upon enquiring, grandfather informs him that the tiger had been in his care six months ago. The keeper who was new to the zoo was not aware of the situation but encouraged him to continue the conversation, as he is both surprised and happy that the tiger is getting close to someone. He explains that he had tried taming him but in vain. The tiger had always been ferocious and never responded to him, in the way it had responded to grandfather.
Grandfather was concerned about the tiger since the leopard kept scaring him. He wanted to talk to the superintendent of the zoo regarding the change of the tiger's cage, showing that he still thinks of him as the same cub that was once in his protection. He treats him the same way a father would protect his son from danger. Since he could not find the superintendent, he plans to bid goodbye to the tiger, as it was getting late.
Grandfather was so excited to see Timothy after a long time, that he could not help but spend more time with him. He keeps stroking the tiger for almost five minutes when he feels that someone is observing him. It was the same keeper who was present when grandfather had handed Timothy over to the zoo. He was looking at him with shock and surprise. Since grandfather was already protective of the tiger and wanted to complain about the leopard scaring him, he decides to discuss the issue with the keeper. He appeals to the keeper to move the tiger from the leopard that was creeping him out.
The keeper who still has not come out of his shock initially manages to utter only a few words. He informs the grandfather that it was not his tiger. Grandfather, who was not doubtful about the situation previously, fails to understand the meaning of the keeper's words. He thinks the keeper is referring to the fact that Timothy had changed to a great extent from the time he was a cub and the time he was in the zoo. He informs the keeper that he understands the same. But the keeper's next few words unravels the twist of the plot. He discloses the fact that Timothy had died of pneumonia, two months ago. The tiger that he was stroking for so long was the one which was captured from the hills, and that he was particularly very dangerous.
Grandfather was shocked to the extent that he could not process what the keeper had said. He freezes on the spot, not knowing how to react. His hands were still being licked by the tiger. But the overall idea behind the licking was changed after revealing the truth. What seemed like a tiger's love towards an old master, turns out to be the excitement of a hungry tiger when he sees the meal. Grandfather still could not remove his hand from the cage as he was still processing a whole lot of information, that his beloved Timothy had died, and that he had misunderstood the intention of the new tiger.
Although grandfather removes his hand after a long time, he goes closer to the cage and mumbles "goodnight Timothy" in his ear. This shows that in spite of facing himself with the harsh truth of the death of Timothy, he decides to escape from reality, by convincing himself that the keeper had made a mistake and that the ferocious tiger that had been licking his hands was indeed his beloved Timothy. He refuses to face the truth because of his love for Timothy.