The son, Kishori Lal, had no temperament for administrative work. He was a serious young man who devoted all his hours to his books, spurning his friends’ interest in sports and other frivolities. Neat and lanky, and industrious to a fault, he took particular interest in religious books and studied them along with the subjects he had to learn for his college courses. The family had retained its loyalty to the Jain religion; Kishori Lal scrupulously observed its rules, such as a strictly vegetarian diet and kindness to all creatures.
It was no surprise that he gained his bachelor’s degree with good grades. Nor was it a surprise to his parents that he never considered other kinds of work and accepted a job as a teacher in a government school. He taught in the city of Bhagalpur for several years and was promoted to school principal in the neighboring Banka District, in the small town of Katoriya. In that quiet, unlikely place came his biggest test.
Kishori Lal’s peaceful life with students and teachers in Banka took a sharp jolt when he received notice that the British inspector was coming to inspect his school. The prospect of meeting a representative of Her Majesty’s Government and answering his difficult questions was disconcerting enough. What made it far worse was that Abid Ali, the minion who brought the notice, also informally told Kishori Lal that Hillwood intended to bag a tiger in Banka’s woods and expected the local principal to act as his guide. Hillwood had shrewdly figured out that the local school principal might be the best guide, as he was likely to know a smattering of English. Also the principal would be unlikely to decline the invitation of a mighty inspector, on whose approval his job depended.
Hillwood did not know, and cared less, that Kishori Lal was an earnest Jain and the idea of slaughtering animals in the name of sport could be anathema for him. For Kishori Lal the prospect was a nightmare. He had to think of something before the inspector arrived in less than a week.
When Hillwood arrived the following Thursday, accompanied by Abid Ali and a driver, he was royally received at the Circuit House, where august personages stayed. Kishori Lal acted as the interpreter, translating the Englishman’s orders for warm water first and tea and biscuits next. Then he walked with Hillwood to the school.
When Abid Ali arrived the following morning to collect Kishori Lal, a villager asked him to proceed to the small temple nearby. There he found the barebodied Kishori Lal making loud incantations before the small deity and, he was stunned to discover, also a small picture of the Queen, torn possibly from a school textbook on history. Some villagers, respectfully standing nearby, would not let the infidel Abid Ali either enter the sanctum or interrupt the worship.
Meanwhile, Hillwood, impatient for the return of Abid Ali with the principal, had himself come out and faced the spectacle of his missing guide performing the absurd ritual with the picture of the Queen. The villagers would not let him interrupt the performance either. After a half-hour Kishori Lal stood up, emerged from the temple with a strange look, and spoke to the highly irritated inspector.
He said in his halting English, and then in vernacular for the villagers, that during the night the Goddess had appeared in a vision and told him that his proposed participation in the hunt for the tigress seen in the vicinity would be a great sin, for the brave tigress was none other than an incarnation of Queen Victoria herself.
Kishori Lal went back to his school, his faith intact. Hillwood went back to his office, his predatory ambition unfulfilled. The tigress of Banka, ostensibly the incarnation of the Queen herself, continued her reign in Banka’s wood undeterred, emerging only rarely to grab the straying goat from some unhappy villager’s herd.