THE BLUE-BLOODED PANTHER OF BANGALORE
By Brennen Fahy
My grandfathers house sat on a foundation of thick granite stones. It had a winding staircase and many rooms filled with intricate furniture and interesting things. It was a beautiful house and I loved exploring it every few months when my family went over for dinner.
I never asked what my grandfather did for a living. I just ran my hands and eyes over his possessions and came to my own conclusions. The horns of a musk ox, the antlers from some extinct ancestor to the elk, the golden figurines, and the stones inscribed with foreign alphabets that held down the papers on his desk all pointed to one line of work. My grandfather was Indiana Jones. Well, maybe not the man himself but definitely one of his contemporaries; a man whose occupation was to find lost cities and the origins of great rivers. A man whose commute consisted of slashing his way through the jungle at the head of a long line of porters.
In between safaris and mountain excursions my family would go over to his house for dinner and his study would be the first place I explored. He was always in there working and he would tolerate my presence if I was quiet. He pored over papers and consulted thick ledgers he kept in a case behind him and I always assumed he was going over the figures to outfit another expedition or researching the location of a lost Spanish treasure fleet.
To be fair, my grandfather didn’t go out of his way to correct these assumptions in fact he encouraged them. One day while going through his stuff in his study I noticed a blue stain on the brim of his hat that he kept on a rack near the door.
“Grandpa? What’s this blue mark on your hat?” I asked.
Without looking up from his work he replied,
“That’s blood from the blue-blooded panther of Bangalore.”
I waited for him to continue and when he didn’t I pressed him for more details.
“The blue-blooded panther of Bangalore was a giant panther that came into the city from the jungle. It was carrying off little boys and girls and the people of Bangalore asked me to get rid of it. I tracked it to it’s den in the sewers and shot it and when I carried the body out on my back to show the people and collect my fee some of it’s blood got on my hat. My entire outfit was soaked blue but the panther had clawed my clothes to ribbons and the hat is the only thing besides me that survived the encounter.”
Of course I believed him. This wasn’t the only tall tale he told, among others he consistently spoke of a secret patch of woods nearby where rhinoceroses and elephants lived. I begged him to show it to me but there was always something that seemed to get in the way. He was either too busy or the weather wasn’t warm enough or the time of year was off but I persisted and eventually he gave in and took me and my younger cousins to a patch of woods outside of town.
When we got out of the car my grandfather instructed us to be very quiet. He told us that elephants and rhinos have exceptional hearing and that if we were to make too much noise we would scare them all off and never see one so we tiptoed along an old logging road with our grandfather walking behind us. I remember being nervous but reassured myself that I was with my grandfather and he would know how to handle a charging rhino. We walked for maybe ten minutes when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, I turned around and caught my grandfather with his arm cocked back and holding a rock. He looked at me and brought a finger to his lips and then heaved the rock into the brush.
“There’s one! There goes one now!” He yelled as the rock rattled through some branches and bounced off a tree.
My cousins spun around and craned their necks to see the retreating rhino and all of them claimed that they did.
“I see it!”
We walked for another hour and my face burned with embarrassment as my grandfather occasionally threw rocks and sticks into the woods to excite my cousins. They had no idea what he had been up to and chattered excitedly among themselves the whole way back. I was confused about why my grandfather would lie like that and I approached my father to ask him what he really did for a living.
“He’s an accountant.” he said. “He makes and looks after the financial records of people and businesses.”
The news was very depressing. It was quite the demotion in the eyes of a boy, to go from a swashbuckling adventurer to an accountant. It was like finding out that Santa Clause didn’t exist and I never looked at my grandfather the same way again. The golden figurines weren’t recovered from ancient palaces and temples but were actually brass trinkets purchased in town. The horns of the great beasts in his office weren’t spoils from a safari, but were dredged up from a mine and given to him by a client. The blue stain wasn’t from the blue-blooded panther of Bangalore but rather from a leaky fountain pen.
When I was much older I learned how difficult his life had been and I began to look at him in a different way. He was the son of a single parent, a recent immigrant to the country and born into complete poverty. He lived under a bridge with his mother and younger sister and only managed to crawl out of destitution with an indomitable work ethic. He still works to this day and I imagine he’ll keep working long after his sons have retired. He might not have slain a blue-blooded jungle cat in India or discover any lost civilizations but he did manage to raise himself up in the world and provide a comfortable life for his children and grandchildren. And that’s pretty impressive too.
About the Author:
Brennen Fahy spends his summers fighting forest fires in the backwoods of British Columbia. This frees up his winters where he pursues an interest in travelling, writing, and becoming a functioning alcoholic. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail as well as the Lowestoft Chronicle and the Roanoke Review.