I own a .315 Winchester self loading rifle. The weapon is a gift to me by my father in law who in turn had been gifted the weapon by the Maharajah of Dewas, a princely state near Indore for services rendered by him as a government official of the excise department.
One reason for giving me the weapon was that a civilian in India cannot get a license for a SLR weapon and as such since I was from the armed forces and came in the ‘exempted’ category, he thought it would be a good gesture on his part to gift the weapon to me. I loved the weapon and it has been with since that day.
A Winchester is one of the top American brands as far as rifles are concerned. The weapon is a deadly piece of weaponry and owning it is a matter of pride. The best part is that weapon can be dismantled and carried in a special case with a handle. You can store the weapon in the case and lug it around like a little largish brief case.
About 12 years back, I travelled from Calcutta (Howrah) by the Calcutta Mail to Khandwa. From there, I planned to take a taxi to Indore which is 116 km from Khandwa. The journey itself was uneventful and the train reached Khandwa at about 1am in the morning. I had one small bag for my clothing’s and personal accoutrements. This I carried in one hand and in the other I carried my ‘brief case’ with the Winchester. When I came out, I found a steady drizzle was on and no taxi was ready to go to Indore. Apart from the rain, the other objection was that it was not proper to travel in the dead of the night as all around the road were some of the thickest jungles of Madhya Pradesh. One of the taxi drivers also told me that some panthers were also on the prowl and only yesterday they had attacked a man on the highway and killed him
I mentioned to the taxi driver not to worry and I also conveyed to him that I was a military officer who had shot tens of panthers. This was of course a lie as till that date I had never shot a panther, though I had been in tiger shoots with the Maharajah of Burdwan in the Sunder bans.
The driver took heart and agreed to drop me for an extra charge of one hundred rupees. I agreed and we set course. We soon left Khandwa far behind and now we were moving through the thick jungles of the Vindhyas. These are a range of small hills and progress was slow. Just then, there was a lurch and the car came to a halt. In fact it veered to one side and the driver told me that he had a puncture. The rain had stopped and we both came out of the car and in the dark night I took a small torch and shone it.
But just then I heard a snarl and by instinct I knew a panther was in the vicinity. The driver also heard it and promptly clambered back into the car and shut the door. I knew that the panther is an intelligent animal and sooner than later he will come to the car. Panthers have been known to break the windshield as well and I knew that in case we were to move forward I would have to deal with the Panther. I went into the rear seat and opened my ‘brief case’ and took out my rifle. I assembled t in no time and got ready. The taxi driver also took heart at this and wished me luck, but he didn’t come out of the car.
I checked the magazine and found that I had two bullets only, as my ammo had finished and I was looking to buy some bullets at Indore. Now the snarls became closer and I knew the panther was in the vicinity of the car. I stood outside and flashed the torch which I positioned don the bonnet of the car.
Everything then happened in a flurry. In a split second, I saw a dark shape hurtling towards me. I could locate its position because of its eyes which glistened in the dark. The dark shape was the panther. He was on a tree and he leapt toward me. I fired and missed and I fired again and this time I hit the beast. He fell on the car bonnet and struggled and then died. It was a close shave, and I thanked god that I had not lost my nerve. I hate to kill big cats, but I suppose in this case it was inevitable. We drove away after changing the tire, with the panther in the dickey straight to the DFO’s office.