Last train from Gorakhpur

gorakhpur

He was going to war, there seemed no question about it.

The man was in uniform and the woman, she had her ghunghat (veil) covering her head, while the little girl clung to the woman’s saree. I was heavily into NCC at that point in time and I knew army ranks pretty well. The soldier wore the shoulder flashes of the Paratroop Regiment. His starched dark grey shirt had it’s sleeves rolled almost up to his armpits and on his muscled right arm was a tattoo of a conical prism with clouds above – the regiment insignia.

It was the January of 1971. Bangladesh was in the throes of a nationalist struggle for independence from Pakistan and India was about to step in.

This was something that had been waiting to happen for the previous two decades. Whoever did the carving up of India during the course of it’s independence from Britain in 1947, definitely fit the sobriquet of a flaming dick-head. This wasn’t the US and Alaska, with a like-minded and friendly Canada in the middle. This was Tom and Jerry, with Elmer Fudd in between.

Pakistan, a rogue nation by any standard, had long been a beneficiary of American largesse and it was incresingly looking like America was preparing to muck into the fray. Intelligence reports suggested that it was preparing to move it’s 7th fleet up the Bay of Bengal toward the East-Pakistani port of Chittagong.

As the 93000-ton nuclear-powered USS Enterprise steamed closer, below deck it hummed with activity. It’s compliment of F4 Phantoms and A10 Warthogs were being loaded up and primed.

In 12 hours, the Enterprise, with the help of the high-flying KC-135 tankers, would be able to strike just about any target in India. America was getting ready to go to war with us in order to save it’s vassal’s ass. The approaching fleet was a clear signal to India that there would be hell to pay, if it stepped in to help the rebel Mukti Bahini.

Threatened by the American eagerness to shed blood – many time zones away from it’s own shores and it’s own people, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi placed a call to the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev and the message that Brezhnev in turn conveyed to Richard Nixon was a simple one – ‘Back off. This is not Vietnam. You go in, we go in.’

Brezhnev’s threat worked. It stopped the massive American flotilla – with it’s 60 ships, 300 combat aircraft and 10000 personnel – in it’s tracks. The US – militarily a bully, but psychologically a wimp – blinked. Faced with the threat of direct Soviet intervention, the 7th Fleet turned around and steamed back into the southern Indian Ocean. The Indian military stormed into East Pakistan and the rest is history.

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Those days I was at La Martiniere, a vicious residential high school in Lucknow, north-central India. Vicious – because of it’s wolf-pack bullies. Home was Gorakhpur, a small town which was an overnight journey by train, from Lucknow. Gorakhpur was a hick town that had no reputable schools.

Whenever vacations got over, my father would drive me to the Gorakhpur rail station around 9pm and settle me in my berth inside a lone rail car parked in a siding platform, waiting to be hitched to the Audh Tirith Mail which was scheduled to arrive just after midnight.

My father couldn’t hang around till midnight, due to security concerns. Late nights, bandits took over the 20km stretch of the NH29 over which we would have to pass, to get to the train station. Baba had to drop me off early and speed back home before it got too late.

Left alone in that rail compartment, I would sit by the window for the three hours that it took for the AT Mail to arrive. The rail car would gradually begin to fill up and most times I drifted off to sleep, never feeling the bump of the coupling, never knowing when we got under way. When I woke, we would be passing Barabanki, a half hour ahead of Lucknow.

remember this one time…

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There I was, at my seat, looking out through those window bars in the 3rd Class rail compartment. Baba had just left for the drive home. The 3rd Class was for the hoi-polloi, rough and tumble, the bunks made of plain wooden planks, the cars devoid of shock absorbers.

As always, whenever I felt miserable, I thought of my mother who had left home a year prior, in order to be a nun at the Ramkrishna Mission near Kolkata. I had by then passed that ‘Why me?’ stage and learned to accept it.

But I missed her terribly and suddenly, sitting there hunched, peering into the rain – my eyes filled, distorting the already rain-soaked scene outside. As a part of her penance as a nun, my mother traveled on foot from village to village in the Konnagar area, to seek alms and non-perishable food, like grain, from the merchants there, on behalf of an orphanage that the Mission ran. I wondered where she was.

Aparna Dutt – double MA, English Literature and History – out in the Indian brush. Vivacious, beautiful, charming – my mother. Was she all right – sitting there in the dark, I wondered. She had suffered a sprained ankle a few months back. It had happened when her Hawaii chappals had torn and she had tried to avoid stepping on a sharp stone on the way to Santragachi. I wondered if she was okay now. For no particular reason, I spoke out her name aloud…Mamoni..Mamoni, I miss you so.” I was alone in there, so it didn’t matter if I spoke out loud. Had it been worth it? Had she found what she was looking for?

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The rail car hadn’t yet filled up. It was still early and it was pouring. The AT Mail wasn’t due for the next three hours. I sat there peering through the curtain of rain drops at the dimly lit station platform on the other side. It was deserted, except for this tight little threesome – a man, a woman and a child – a little girl, maybe five or six.

The woman had a huge nose ring and her hands were covered up to her elbows in multicolored bangles. Standing by them was one of those huge military-issue steel trunks, with “Cpl. Dinesh Tripathi” stenciled on the side.

The soldier picked up the little girl and hugged her tightly. They rubbed noses for a while and the girl giggled as her father tickled her under her arm at the same time. The woman huddled closer to him and looked up into his face.

I would have given anything to hear what she said to her man but I was too far. The only thing I noticed were her tears because she was constantly wiping them with the anchal of her sari.

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I must have drifted off, because I suddenly awoke with a jerk when the AT Mail was coupling with our car at the back of the train. I noticed that the compartment had filled up. There was another kid my age sitting next to me and his parents on the opposite side. Bunks above and below were stuffed with humans. The car was packed like sardines.

The coupling happened with a series of metallic clangs and thuds and it wasn’t long before I felt that familiar tug as we started rolling. We were on time. I noted that the downpour had stopped. Everything was stark and clear and in focus. I rubbed my eyes and looked out the window.

My eyes went to the opposite platform in reflex. Now there were just two huddled figures on it and they were waving. The little girl broke free and ran alongside the accelerating train for a little while, trying to catch a last glimpse of her father – as he went to war.

The tiny figure was still waving as the train cleared the station platform, took a bend, lurching over crisscrossing tracks and sped forward into the night.

Dissuading the Second Comer

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The Abrahamics (Christians, Jews and Muslims) – roughly 80% of the population of the world – believe that we will receive a visit from another messiah – the last one. Even if they don’t agree on who that messiah will be, they do agree on the basic premise – that there will be another messiah. They also agree that the messiah will have humble beginings.

So, why can’t it be me?????

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Second coming

“….Surely I will come soon. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20)

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Although Christ’s Second Coming is mentioned in multiple places on the Bible, the specific line mentioned above appears somewhere in it’s closing pages.

Do you have a copy of the Bible? Get one immediately. If the Almighty Lord senses that you own a Bible, he’ll leave you alone and even favor you. Kinda like…..“Let’s see..hmmm..Spunky has a Bible and he isn’t even a Christian. Transfer a million into his bank account, will you Pete?”

Getting back to the Bible quote above, just who is “I”? Jesus? If yes, there’s so much that I want to say to him. Like……

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“No, thanks, pal. If you make a second visit, here’s what will happen – you will leave with your work unfinished, just like the last time and the number of screwball evangelists and pedophiles who spread evil in your name will only multiply after you are gone. I shudder at the thought of more Mike Pences, Mike Huckabees, Roy Moores, Mike Pences, Jerry Falwells and similar faux Christian raving lunatic nutcases.

Besides no one speaks Aramaic anymore, Dude. We won’t be able to follow your hubba hubba hubba.

(Did I mention Mike Pence twice? Think I’ll just leave it like that. The real Lucifer needs special mention.)

And then again, what exactly will your mandate be, in your second coming? Surely you won’t be pressing for the same old ten commandments? Heck, half those commandments do not even qualify as crimes in the penal code anymore. Take a look at them……

Killing and stealing are still a no-no, but the rest – like adultery or the one about coveting your neighbor’s wife, his house, his pets and his grain – relax, times have changed – they’re all du jour now. We can do them and that’s just fine, because everybody covets everything nowadays.

It is in fact all covet, covet and more covet these days and there is no law against thinking of grabbing something, which is what coveting is. I covet female body parts all the fookin time and I have never been struck by a bolt of lightning, see?

Furthermore, things have changed quite a bit since the last time you were here, dude. Those days ground zero used to be a postage stamp-sized piece of land 4000-sq.miles in area known as The Levant, around the shores of the eastern Mediterranean and you thought that was the entire world. Well, I have news for you – it has grown a whole lot larger and far more complex. There are other hustl…I mean messiahs, now. The do-gooder that you are, you will run afoul of the establishment somewhere along, pretty quick. Heck, you’re the world’s champion ‘run-afouler’. You’ll be in trouble the moment you open your mouth to speak, I am definite about that.

Listen, dude, I’ll level with you – things are much worse than can be imagined, way beyond any messiah’s intervention, trust me on this. You’re like Rex Tillerson, to God’s Donald Trump. Your boss doesn’t need you anymore.

More significantly, we enjoy sinning. We have realized that no matter what we do, no matter how virtuous we are, we are still screwed. Hey, some of us don’t even get the opportunity to show off our virtuosity, fucked the moment we are born, no kidding. Like a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome, know what I mean? We now understand that the ancient concept of sin->mea culpa->punishment->redemption is nothing but shitty myth. So, we don’t want you parachuting in to spoil all the fun. Just do yourself a favor and cancel your trip, bro.

Then there is the “soon” in that Bible quote I have mentioned below the pic. Just when is soon? If you absolutely insist on a second coming, don’t make it soon, please. Wait until maybe 3500AD. I and any surviving reincarnations of mine shall definitely be dead by then.

And here’s a tip – try not to pick the Levant as your landing site. They don’t like you around that joint anymore. They might even crucify you a second time if you show up over there. It hurt like hell the last time, remember?”

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First Edishuns

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That’s the First Editions rack in my library. And that’s Thor on the top shelf, guarding them hard covers with his 21st Century rapid-fire proton zapper. (He has discarded his crummy hammer).

Collecting First Editions is an enriching hobby, in more ways than one. All those books are going to be worth a pila cash if I let them hibernate a while. I have a JK Rowling that can easily go for a grand by 2020, maybe 2025. I got her in pristine condition at Nova, the second hand book store by the river, for 25¢. Selling it for a grand will be a 4000-fold return on investment.

I got a goodly bunch. I got a Herman Wouk, some John Grishams, an RK Narayan, a Walter Isaacson, a John Irving. Even a Sidney Sheldon. All in mint condition. I am looking for a Paul Gallico, a Wouk or maybe a Faulkner or a Wodehouse – early 20th century first printings. If anyone can meet me up with the owner of a hard cover ‘To kill a Mockingbird’, I’ll be eternally grateful.

First editions are worthless if you don’t keep ‘em in good condition. To protect my stash, I have a climate controlled basement. Temp 10°C, humidity 35% and Edvard Grieg. Yes, books love music, they do. I reckoned first editions would go for classical stuff. Thor being highly partisan, I have ta play Grieg’s Peer Gynt  in a continuous loop for him. The piece is based upon the folk legend of a 19th Century Norwegian kid named Peer Gynt and his pining for his homeland as he sails from his homestead near the Norwegian fjords, down to the North African desert and it captivates Thor. I have even seen him tear up listening to it, some days.

And I don’t collect paperback first editions. They aren’t majestic like hard covers. Besides, Thor doesn’t like paperbacks. “Ingen paperback”, says he, in a Nordic warlord-like grunt. Yes, Thor can talk, even if only in old Norse. At least he doesn’t have gas, like most other Germanic peoples.

Listen, everything in the previous two paragraphs was a lie actually. I just have First Editions on a book rack, that’s it. Thor is just a LEGO jedi my son built when he was seven.

If you are interested to start collecting First Editions as a hobby, the first thing you got ta acquaint yourself with is the definition of ‘First Edition’ – it is a first printing of a title by a specific publisher. However, a popular title (a Rowling or a Grisham) may have multiple publishers – all of whom will naturally have their own first editions.

If the initial print run of the first edition sells out and the publisher decides to produce another printing with the same typeset, no changes, the book is described as a first edition – second printing.  On the other hand, if changes have been made by the author or the publisher (like updating the latest status of an event described in the first edition or adding a new chapter or a foreword), the book is then described as the second edition.

If you are a collector like me, you’ll go for the true first edition – ie: the very first printing of a title, the one that precedes all other first editions chronologically. So, open the copyright page and it will tell you the printing history. Assuming you have an average level of intellect (which you must have, since you’re reading my blog), you’ll be able ta decipher the gobbledegook on the page.

So, a recap – just because you got a book brand new at your local Indigo outlet, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a First Edition. You will have ta learn to recognize a First Edition and here’s how….

First of all, if you’re lucky the copyright page will mention the words ‘First edition’, like the Naomi Klein hard cover below, of her seminal work on ‘Disaster Capitalism’…

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If you see ‘First printing’, instead of ‘First edition”, it’s the same thing.

Sometimes, you won’t find any of these terms on the copyright page. No problem. Look for the ‘number line’. It is a series of numbers that usually appear at the bottom of the page. If the line begins or ends with a ‘1’, it’s a first edition.

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Other times the number line is preceded by the term ‘First edition’, but be careful because some publishers leave on the words ‘first edition’ even when the book is in its third printing and that fact is reflected in the ‘3’ in this number line….

First edition / 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The following sequence is supposed to be on a book that is in it’s 2nd printing (the ‘2’ at the end) and has come out in 1975 (the ‘75’ in front) …..

75 76 77 78 79 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2

What do you do if neither the ‘First edition’ nor the number line appears on the copyright page? Relax, read on….

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In many cases, you may not see either the number line, or the ‘First edition’ mentioned on the copyright page. Not a problem. Just check if the copyright date and the printing date match up, like it does above, in the copyright page for astronaut, Scott Kelly’s ‘Endurance’, about his 340-day saga aboard the International Space Station.

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I am careful how I handle my first editions. They have got to be looked after, since their value is directly dependent on their condition.

Of course, certain first editions are impossible to find in mint condition and that’s because they are treasured more for their archaeological value. Like the 2700-year old Dead Sea Scrolls that the ancient  Jewish sect – Essenes – produced and secreted for posterity inside earthenware jars in caves around the Dead Sea.

The most valuable part – maybe 90% of the value of a first edition hard cover – is it’s dust jacket. So, don’t be a shmuck and fuck it up, like dropping coffee on it or jotting down your grocery list or your chic’s phone number or something. Make sure there are no stickers on it either.

Libraries usually use mylar jacket covers to protect dust jackets. I use Brodart™ dust jacket covers for all my first editions and even other hard covers that I specially treasure.

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Unfortunately I don’t own any signed first editions. Now, those are serious cash cows – maybe 10, 20 times the value of an unsigned first edition. A signed JK Rowling recently went for 10000 smackeroonies. I have decided to begin frequenting book signings. To that end, I have created an account on Chapters and they email me whenever there is a book signing coming up. Make sure you get a photo taken with the author signing your copy. It’s not incontrovertible proof but it is still valuable circumstantial evidence that the signature on the book could be authentic.

In case you think it’s crazy to collect books, even first editions, remember vinyl records? They are back with a bang. I was such a schmuck to throw away my LPs and the Garrard record changer.

We humans are nuts – we don’t care about stuff when we buy them new, but we go ape shit for them when they are vintage. I could kill myself for chucking out my illustrated hard cover Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra after it got sorta crinkly and brittle with all the dried DNA on it, back in 1975. Imagine how priceless it could have been by now.

Murakami

“Excuse me, Sir, a friend has been raving about this guy and I am trying to decide which one to take. I was wondering if you’ve read anything from him…”

I was at the Chapters outlet in Pointe Claire, minding my business – browsing – enjoying the feel of the crisp covers between my fingers and relishing the new book smell which is typical of retail book stores.

I rarely buy books new. Why would I, when I can get a paperback for 25c at Nova, the second-hand book store by the riverside? The rare occassion when I do venture to actually buy a book at Chapters is when they organize those book signings. If you are a regular, they call you and in case it happens to be a Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro or Rohinton Mistry, you don’t want to miss the occassion. A signed first edition hard cover, if preserved carefully, can be worth a grand in five to ten years – for a $30 purchase, that’s a 3000% return. Not a bad investment.

That day I was there for an Anita Rao Badami signing, of her ‘Tamarind mem’. She hadn’t yet arrived and here I was, whiling away my time, leafing through scores of books.

On hearing the voice from behind me, I turned. The man was gaunt with spaniel eyes and he was holding up three paperbacks in his hands for my scrutiny. On the covers was emblazoned ‘Haruki Murakami’ and below, the titles.

“Never heard of the guy, sorry,” I said apologetically, trying to outdo his spaniel eyes with my spaniel smile, “Where did you find them?”

“Over there by the water fountain, next to the ‘Canadian Authors’ rack, ” he said and shuffled away.

I found the Murakamis occupying one whole shelf and did some speed reading and I found he had a zany style. The first impression having been great, I resolved to look for him at Nova or the library and I found one at the Roman, Anglais (English – Fiction) section of the Bibliothèque Guy-Godin.

The title was ‘Men without women’. Long story short – I didn’t regret my choice.

Turns out, Murakami is a superstar in Japan – an international literary icon and a perpetual also-ran for the Nobel Literature Prize. He has published over twennie books, many of which have been translated into English.

Also turns out, everyone seems to know Murakami except me.

‘Men without women’ left me bursting with the need to discuss it with somebody. When I did find someone – Kenny at the lunch table at work – I couldn’t coherently put my thoughts into words. It was like waking up from a really complicated dream and then attempting to explain the fast dissipating memory of it to someone.

That is what strikes me about Murakami’s writing. You don’t have to understand it to be affected by it. It shoves you into scenarios that are at once absurd, emotional, bizarre and zany.

‘Men without women’ is a collection of short stories that have an intimate and ethereal feel to them. The situations in them are, that’s right – emotional, bizarre and zany. There’s one about the friend who wants him to date his girlfriend (because then he can be sure she isn’t going out with any random person). The friend doesn’t mind if he even has sex with her. Then the one about the confirmed life-long bachelor and man about town who finally falls head over heels in love with one of his many conquests – a married woman. When he cannot handle the agony of not being able to possess her, he does something totally bizarre, which I’ll let you find out.

If you love short stories, or you just want to dip your toes into the Murakami sea without committing to a whole novel, this collection is for you.

Transitioning

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I just got A.J.Cronin’s “The Citadel” at Nova, the second-hand book store by the riverside. They were having a half price Christmas sale and I paid 25c for it. I had read it before but felt the need to have it in my collection. Besides, the kid who lives in my house is just done with his terminal exams and I am hoping he will develop the habit of reading like his dad. I thought he might like ta start with The Citadel.

The Citadel is about the glaring injustices in the medical profession of 1930s’ Wales and one doctor’s battles with his conscience. There’s a lot of heart in it.

Getting back to the kid, like I said his terminals just got over and I went to John Abbott to pick him up from the exam hall. He looked morose, the way a soldier must feel on the day after he’s back from the war – suddenly nothing, no activity, no adrenaline, no stress, nothing.

In fact, studies have found that most Post Traumatic Stress in the developed world is brought on, not by the horrific wartime experience but by the sudden inactivity in the aftermath, when memories flood in, crippling the mind. The opposite happens in the developing world, example – Vietnam. More than 4 million Vietnamese were injured, tortured, raped, brutalized, subjected to chemical attacks, killed and maimed and yet, do you hear of PTSD in Vietnam? You don’t. They have accepted, picked up and moved on. In the US, PTSD is huge and vets are like walking time bombs.

I digress. So, as the kid and I were driving off I saw students walking around the campus, like dazed wreaths coming to terms with the sudden freedom from assignments, tests and homework.

“What’s the plan for the evening, Tiger? Movie? Sleepover at Andrew’s? A long spell on the PS4?” I asked him gaily. I looked more excited than he did.

“I dunno, let me think about it,” he said, ” Anyway, I still have to go give tuition tanight. Cameron’s term doesn’t end until the twennieth.” Cameron is a high school senior the kid is giving tuition in math, history and physics to.

I am glad the kid has a transition planned between high stress and inactivity – tuition. What can be more noble?

And that’s very important – a transition. In metallurgy we learn that a metal that is being heat treated is never suddenly cooled, but tempered – a process where the cooling is drawn out, by allowing the metal to remain in the furnace and cool gradually along with the furnace after it has been switched off. Tempering enhances tensile and fatigue strength.

The kid has unwittingly installed that tempering process in him ta settle down into the holidays.

Transition is good. I am seeing a transition in myself – in my reading, video watching and net surfing habits. I am seeing myself moving away from sex and the female anatomy. Albeit, it is very gradual but it is happening – a change is coming over me. I don’t visit pornhub.com every night anymore. Terms like ‘cleavage’ and ‘buttocks’ are no longer pinned to my mind’s Start Menu.

It’s just as well. The new year is rolling in and this time I want to be a different person – exuberant, refreshing, enlightened, optimistic, kindly and understanding. I am already working on a light, monalisa-esque mridu smile that I’ll be smiling often, January 01 onward. I want ta read Jane Austen, the Bronté sisters, A.J.Cronin and Hiraki Kurashumi. I want ta listen to The Carpenters, Carole King and Bread.

By January 01, I want ta be a flaming pain in the ass.

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ps:

  1. “Mridu” is Bengali for gentle, as in smile.
  2. There is nobody by the name of Hiraki Kurashumi. I made it up because Japanese authors are cool right now.

Lovely Bones – Dark Earth

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​”The Lovely Bones”

Author : Alice Sebold (2002)

When I pick up a book, the first few lines decide whether I’ll continue with it or not. If they hold my attention, I take it home with me. There’s so much to read and so little time that I hate mucking around something that is uninteresting, however profound it’s words might be.

The first few lines of the prologue of The Lovely Bones go like this…. “My name was Salmon, like the fish; my first name – Suzie. I was fourteen when I was murdered, in December of 1973…”

Now wouldn’t that hold your attention? Mine got tungsten arc welded to those lines. But here’s the thing – I cannot leave it because it is riveting and at the same time, reading it is excruciatingly painful – a constant reminder of the darkest depths in human behaviour. The book lies there on my coffee table, to be pried open now and then and a few pages read, with the help of a stiff drink.

The lovely bones is about a 14-year old girl who is brutally raped and murdered by her neighbour, an older, seemingly mild mannered man named Harvey. The story is narrated by the dead girl who documents in excruciating detail her rape, murder and the aftermath, ostensibly from heaven.

The first thing that struck me was that, had it not been written in 2002, I’d have thought that the author had deliberately chosen to name the rapist ‘Harvey’. The other thing was the protracted and utterly vivid depiction of the assault which makes the book a very agonizing read.

The human body is a robust mechanism. When confronted by mortal danger, it can put up a fight that can make a killing – by anything other than a firearm – particularly hard. Suzie Salmon, is a hard kill. She takes us through it, blow by blow – her resistence, the scent of the killer’s cologne and then when he’s close, his fetid breath, the raw earthy smell of the hole he has dug for her, the eerie haze of the early evening through which she can hardly make out his face, even though he is right on top of her.

As Mr Harvey is pounding away inside Suzie, she makes her mind wander, in a sort of defensive reflex. She tells us about thinking of school, how she is a member of the school chess club, how she adores the poetry of Juan Ramon Jiminéz and how her English teacher says if you want to improve your handwriting, don’t use ruled sheets.

“There are no ruled sheets today,” she whispers to herself hoarsely as the rapist keeps biting savagely at her budding nipples until they are raw and bleeding. Today is stark, today is bare, today is uncharted.

I can identify with Suzie’s desperate need to numb her mind with mundane, everyday things, in a detached matter-of-fact manner. I have experienced being in a similar situation, while enduring hazing in boarding school, though I have to admit what I went through cannot even remotely compare with the Suzie Salmon’s torment.

But while my experience was no match against her’s, my withdrawal into mundanity – as a defence mechanism against the agony and humiliation that I felt raining down on me – was very similar. If I had dwelt on what was being done to me in real time, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the trauma. I was even younger than Suzie – thirteen, when I went to boarding school.

Alice Sebold knows sexual assault intimately. I read a review of her 1999 memoir Lucky. It begins with an account of the her own rape. While she was a freshman at Syracuse University, Sebold was brutally assaulted by a serial rapist and murderer.

She survived and thus the title ‘Lucky’ – drawn from a comment made by the investigating officer, who told her she was lucky not to have been killed and dismembered. The review says Lucky – like Lovely Bones – is an unflinchingly candid book which also details Sebold’s battles with the aftermath of the trauma, including an addiction to heroin.

Dark literature – from a dark, battered mind.

I am on the lookout for Lucky. I am also on the lookout for Alice Sebold’s third book The Almost Moon. Reviews tell me that it is about a woman who, on a sudden impulse, murders her mother – an agoraphobic suffering from severe dementia – by suffocating her with a towel.

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The Lovely Bones has been made into a movie, directed by CGI wizard, Peter Jackson (Lord of the rings, The Hobbit, King Kong) and starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz and Stanley Tucci. Tucci was nominated for the supporting role Oscar for his part as the killer, Mr Harvey. If you have seen Stanley Tucci in ‘The Pelican Brief’, you will agree he can be a very scary guy.

The role of Suzie Salmon is played by Irish actress, Saoirse Una Ronan, one of the most beautiful women I have ever set eyes on.

 

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 The movie poster

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Ronan

Saoirse Una RonanIs there a Murphy’s Law which says that the more unpronounceable a woman’s name is, the more beautiful she is bound to be?

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Alice-Sebold Alice Sebold – her brain is a theme park for darkness and chaos

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As for the book, I am just half way through the assault and have a long ways to go. Meanwhile, my mind has to muse, so this.

About the movie, I haven’t actually seen it. I have watched clips on YouTube though. (I very rarely do all those things that I tell you I do).

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Spunky Shelf Dollies

 

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Lately I’ve been dolling up my bookshelves with little figurines and stuff – y’know, generally making my shelves cute ta look at, encouraging someone walking by ta pick a book ta read, like.

I know figurines and ornamental mugs are female stuff, things that chics spend time with, not masculine men like me. But Sartre once said…”Not only will you find a woman behind every successful man but if you look closely, you’ll find a woman inside every man”.

(Don’t bother looking it up. Sartre didn’t say it, I did. Bringing up Sartre makes it sound kinda offishul like).

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I like that cherubic cupid sitting on the edge of the shelf the best. He got laid off after William Bouguereau lost his commission from Louis Napolean when the monarch skipped town and went into exile.

For a while, the cherub fluttered around looking for work but tastes were changing. No one had the time for courtship anymore. Most cupid painters were outa work for that reason. So, in a last gasp, he fluttered in across the Atlantic, up Gaspé and the St Lawrence and came ta roost on the edge of my shelf. He was so exhausted from the flight that he turned into porcelein. If you own any porcelein cherubs, they’re undocumented illegal aliens from Europe. Turn them in.

Btw, have you checked out Bouguereau’s nudes? They’re simply ravishing. Just ta make my point, I have included an actual Bouguereau right here – courtesy Wikimedia – of a woman, playfully admonishing a cupid…..

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If you have a library like mine, how to do you arrange the books on your shelves? Me, I love ta shelf them just as much as I love reading them. Choosing which genre goes in which shelf and which can mix with which is so exciting. Should Joseph Valachi sit next to Joseph Bonano? He ratted on ‘em all, crippled the New York Mafia with his testimony, remember? What if in the dead of night one paperback attacks another?

Check out my ‘opposites attract’ shelf (aka the ‘confessional shelf’) – the one with the sex books rubbing butts with the Bible books. I can fondle myself as I read Nancy Friday and after I’m done, I’ll pick up the Bible and glance through the Book of John 8:7 to wash away my guilt……

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Don’t you think I am brilliant? 😛

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Anatomy of a moose hunt (Part-2)

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(pic courtesy:Bullmoose inc.)

Michel’s dad had been an avid hunter and that’s why he had bought that land – a 20-acre thickly wooded and otherwise flat spread east of the mammoth Lac Memphremagog which straddles the US-Canada border. He’s glad that he did.

In Canada, folks buy vast stretches of densely forested land for the sole purpose of hunting and charging others for the privilege of hunting on their land. When you consider that a hunter will pay anywhere between $1500 and $3000 for a season, it makes good business sense. Besides, hunting on private land is the safest. On crown property you don’t pay nothing but its hazardous. In season, it is always crawling with hunters and you have to face the very real possibility of being mistaken for a doe and shot by some drunk hunter.

Thanks to Michel, this is my third season on his spread and it’s wild, fairly flat country – no civilization for at least a hundred miles in all directions. And teeming with game – wild fowl, partridge, rabbits and hares, whitetail and moose. And for target practice, there’s always the coyote.

Even when you own the land you want to hunt in, you still need a permit. That’s the first step you take if you want to hunt in Canada – you decide where you’ll hunt : the zone. And then you go get a season license for that zone. Remember, seasons are short – a couple of weeks for every category of game and weapon. Moose season with bow/arrow/crossbow was mid October, for just two weeks. November is for rifle and black powder muskets.

Hunting season is over by the end of November (except for black bear, caribou and elk, which continues into December). By the first week of December you’ll find whitetails ambling along the streets of small towns and villages, completely unconcerned. Somehow they sense that with the start of December they’ll be safe. They’ll expect humans ta chant..”Deer are our friends, deer are our friends, deer are our friends” (remember Shark Tale?). In Duhamel, the deer walk into your kitchen looking for food if they find your patio door open.

Assuming you already have a hunting permit and a firearm/crossbow license, here’s a step by step guide that will see you through to your first kill…….

Foremost, you have to remember – hunting season is short, maybe two-three weeks. So if you are a full-time employee like I am, the first thing you got ta do is make sure you have secured your leave authorization for the period of the season. Like you, there are many in the organisation who’ll want ta go on a hunt. And then if you have a boss like Nurse Ratched (flatter and more rectangular than Saskatchewan) you have ta apply for leave early so she doesn’t hem and haw over it, like she’s letting you peek into her knickers (yuck).

Okay, so you have nailed down your vacation time. Then you organize a season permit and coupons. These are available at all major hunting stores and outfitters. Coupons are little tags that you have ta attach to the corpse of the prey before registering your kill with the ranger station in that area. It has to be attached to the earlobe of the kill, so for C’s sakes don’t throw away the head, even if you know you’re not aiming ta eat it. The coupon is your authorisation to kill that animal and if you kill your prey and then start patting your pockets for the coupon and realize you left it home, three hundred miles away, your ass is grass.

Having taken care of all the licenses and coupons, you are now going to get your gear ready.

First, the weapon. If it’s crossbow season, I check out all the moving parts of my TenPoint Vector, a $1500 mother that I got for $300 from a neighbor who had given up hunting due to old age. The Vector can put a bolt (as a crossbow arrow is termed) right through a moose at 60 yards and come out the other side. The crossbow’s range being severely limited and the bolt’s trajectory having to follow the laws of ballistics, I’ll need a range-finder, which is a tiny device that emits a laser beam which bounces off the target and the device measures the time the beam has taken to bounce back and from that, it gives me the range. Before I shoot, I input that range into the sights of the Vector and I’m good ta go. All this I got ta do real fast since the moose isn’t going ta oblige me by hanging around for long.

If it’s rifle season, I take out my Sapua Magnum .306 and make sure it’s oiled and ready. At a mile, it will drill a neat hole into anything that moves and all I’ll hear is the click of the bolt action. I never fail ta visit a shooting range and check out the calibration of my scope, prior to the expedition.

Next comes the rest of your gear. Here are the requirements that I would term as basic –

  • A reliable hunting partner – bad things can happen to you when you’re on a hunt. It could be anything – a broken ankle or a collapsed tree stand with you on it, causing you ta plummet twennie feet to the ground below and damage your spine. Frostbite, if you are hunting caribou in the Tundra. I mean shit happens, y’know. So always take a partner with you, someone you can trust with a gun in the wild. Anyways, if you want ta go on a moose hunt, the permit allows only one moose for two hunters, so you don’t have a choice. You have to have a partner ta hunt moose.
  • A large pick-up truck – Hunting gear is heavy : food and supplies, guns, ammo, ropes, first aid, sleeping bags, tents, carving and cleaning knife kits, bait, electrical winch for suspending the carcass after cleaning it. Trust me, you cannot set off on a hunt on a piddly Corolla. Besides, a fully grown male moose weighs anywhere between 700 and 1000lbs. You need a means of transport that has enough hauling power.
  • A place ta sleep, nights. Michel has this old school bus that his dad drove into a clearing at the entrance to his spread and converted it into a cozy one room shack. There’s a wood burning stove, a generator, a fridge, bunk cots to spread our sleeping bags on and a larder stocked with racks of Michel’s favorite red shiraz cabarnet.
  • The only inconvenience is the morning poop. For that, you have ta predesignate an area that’s a ways from your camp and just plop down in the brush and do your job. Remember to take your handgun with you and lay it on the grass within reach. Not that it’ll stop a determined black bear though – but if you make sure to have a large caliber piece like a short barrel Glock40 or a Desert Eagle .50, the loud bang is likely ta scare Yogi away. Caution: Remember not ta take your handgun on the actual hunt. Handguns are banned on hunts.
  • Hunting Accident & Liability Insurance – Don’t even think of going on a hunt without insurance. It’s expensive, will set you back by $500 for two weeks in the wild, but you don’t even want ta think of how much it’d cost if you had to be extracted in a hurry by chopper.
  • Satellite phone (where there’s no cellphone coverage) : How are you going to call the chopper? Smoke signals?

Before season begins, you have ta ‘set the field’ – which means, prepare the hunting ground. That is something you do a few weeks in advance of your expedition….

  • Check out that tree stand you had installed a couple of years back. See if the nuts and bolts got rusted and need replacement. As mentioned above in ‘basic requirements’, a collapsing tree stand could kill you or at best turn you into a paraplegic.
  • Fix 3G-enabled motion sensing cameras all over. Michel and I have six SpyPoints that begin transmitting images in real time, telling us if the location we have chosen has moose traffic at all or not. Two weeks prior to season, our Iphones will start pinging as images of animals – deer, moose, coyotes, rabbits – start flooding in, making it look like Times Square at rush hour. Makes me mighty glad.
  • Install large blocks of salt on tree stumps in and around your location. Moose love licking on them. If its deer season scatter bags of apples – whitetail love macintosh. Mid November, deer season begins and I already have 15 sacks, 25lbs each. Let the poor bastards have a feast before they taste some lead.

Okay, so now you have the basics – the land, the licenses, the weapon, a pickup truck, a partner and your own spot. Let’s get down to the nitties…..

Any decent crossbow will weigh at least 25lbs. Try holding it up for a clear shot, it’s painful. So, get yourself set up on your tree stand such that you can rest your arm from where you’re going ta shoot. That goes for a gun too. My Sapua weighs twennie pounds, with scope and everything.

Hunting season coincides with mating season. Get one of those mating call apps with wi-fi speakers when you’re moose hunting. There are buck calls for does and doe calls for bucks and moose are so dumb that they invariably fall for it. But with deer, don’t bother, deer are real smart, they don’t get turned on by Iphone mating call apps. For them, you get genuine doe pee at any outfitters, for $15 a bottle. Whitetail bucks are like Donald Trump in Moscow – they get a hard-on when they smell does’ pee and come charging ta check it out. Just a few drops, sprinkled on a rag and left on a branch at nose height will do the job. Moose don’t believe in kinky sex, golden showers and all, so don’t bother wasting your money on moose pee.

You could get awful cold and hungry, waiting immobile all day, on your tree stand. Make sure you have short eats, like granola bars, chocolates and a coffee flask. DO NOT CONSUME ANYTHING AT GROUNG LEVEL. The scent will scare moose/deer away. You have no idea how strong their sense of smell is. Up on the tree stand its okay, the smell doesn’t get down. But even so, it is always smart ta station your tree stand downwind from your hunting ground zero if that is possible.

Autumn, days are short and it is likely that when you are making your way through the brush toward your tree stand early in the morning, it will still be dark. And the same, when you descend in the twilight to get back to your shack. So, get a sturdy flashlight. Do not use it unless you absolutely have ta. Light scares game away. Btw, the rules specify that you can start upto a half hour prior to sunrise and finish upto a half hour after sunset. Beyond that if you are caught out in the woods with a crossbow or a gun, the rangers will have your ass on a platter.

The hunt…..

If dawn is at 6am, you wake up around 4:30 inside your trailer/shack/cabin (in our case – Michel’s dad’s bus), make yourself a sandwich and a coffee, force yourself ta go poop so you won’t have ta go later in the day.

The next thing is important if you want a kill – take a shower with an odorless soap and put on fresh clothes. Spray on some of the special deodorant that you can get at any outfitter. Buy the soap and deodorant at hunting outfitters only. They know what they’re doing.

Sling your backpack on, grab your crossbow and quiver and walk the 2-3 kms to your tree stand, taking care not to trip over a stone or a sapling in the darkness. If you do and sprain your ankle, hunting season is over for you. While you are up on the tree stand, keep quiet, stay still and do not smoke. Moose hunt is boring, but think of the year’s stock of chops and ribs that you will wash down with Rickard’s Red while that redhead you met at the library nuzzles you in front of the fireplace.

The moose have their own schedule – they venture out around dawn and forage for food until around 10:00-10:30 in the morning and that’s when you got ta get one. Wait for a good shot, and if it’s a crossbow, aim for the liver, heart or lungs. With a gun, go for the side of the head or the neck. Don’t shoot unless you’re sure you have a good shot angle. It is irresponsible and cruel to wound an animal and watch it limp away, maimed for life, and be set upon by a pack of wolves or coyotes who are waiting for the opportunity ta tear it apart.

After 10:30, the moose disappear until around 3:00-3:30pm, so you can get down and go have breakfast, take a nap and generally chill out. You can even make love (if your partner is female). Its mating season for the moose so why should it be any different for ya.

Come 2:30pm, get back up on your tree stand. The moose keep their schedule. A short while later they reappear and that’s your second and last window of the day ta get one, until the sun sets.

I haven’t been able to figure out where they go when they disappear in the late morning. It’s like, all of a sudden they aren’t there anymore. All the mating calls in the world and all the pee won’t make any diff. They must have a well camouflaged den deep in the woods or something.

In the next part, I’ll tell you all about what happens from the time you have managed ta get a 1000-lb moose buck, right up until it’s final trip to your basement freezer in neat little shrink-wrapped portions, ready ta grill.

Don’t go away.

Veterans Day

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The American establishment, through the course of a year, goes through a ritual of remembrance – of the heroism of their soldiers, in – to use a much touted term that Americans love to use – ‘keeping their country safe’.

There’s the Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day and Armistice Day. All of these are public holidays, demonstrating how seriously the American government takes the sacrifices of it’s fighting men and women.

All that is true. To those who narrowly survived, the final moments of the act of getting ready to give one’s life for his country are surreal. Soldiers who have been there and back have spoken of an out of body feeling of everything happening in slow motion, devoid of fear or concern – a state of mind where no reason, no response to external stimuli can stop them from going ahead with the act. They have spoken of a moment of pure exhilaration, of virtuosity.

But here’s the thing. What if the cause itself is questionable? What if a soldier is feted, regardless of whether the war he fought was a just or an unjust one. Sadly, except for the American Civil War – which cannot be counted in the list since it was a war Americans fought against themselves – and the two World Wars, I have not found a single war America waged that was a just one.

Let’s take each war and see for ourselves if my statement is true…

The Indian Wars (earliest settlements upto 1924): 426 American soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, for essentially decimating the native American population who were simply fighting for control of their own homeland.

The Korean Expedition (1871) : The first American military action in Korea, to forcibly establish trade routes through Korea into Central Asia, against the will of the Korean monarch who ruled with an isolationist ideology that simply wanted to mind it’s own business.

The Spanish-American War (1898) : A textbook example of land-grab and hegemony. The fruits – the snatching of Cuba, Phillipines, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Caroline Islands in the Pacific, from Spain. No one stopped to ask the locals how they felt about the whole thing.

Samoan Civil War (1899) : Valued as a refueling station for coal fired ships, Samoa was a tiny chain of islands of people who simply wanted to be left alone. Until the Germans, British and the Americans arrived and stoked up a proxy war.

The Phillipines-American War (1898-1902) : Nothing really, just some Filipinos fighting American occupation of their homeland. 86 Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for this sterling piece of ruthless hegemony.

The Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) : Again, plain run-of-the-mill, rebellion against American intervention in China. Another 50 Medals of Honor here, for successfully cowing down a populace who didn’t want external interference.

Invasion and occupation of Veracruz, Mexico; Haiti; Dominican Republic (1914-24) : 63 brave American servicemen awarded the Medal of Honor for their selfless butchery of the poor natives who were just minding their own business.

Occupation of Nicaragua (1909-33) : 2 Medals of Honor, for the glorious fight to ensure that only the US was allowed to build and control a proposed trans-isthmian canal connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The Korean War (1950-53) : Does anybody find a legitimate reason why a country should intervene in some place half a world away without direct provocation or concern of an existential threat? But as far as the medal tally goes, this was a fruitful one. It dredged up 145 Medals of Honor. Brave, really brave.

The Vietnam War (1965-1975) : I guess I won’t waste my time writing about this open and shut case of pure evil. 234 Medals of Honor here. Seems like the more devilish the intervention, the more medals are showered upon the suck… umm soldiers.

Afghanistan and Iraq wars (2001-ongoing) : Perhaps the most unjust of all wars ever fought by a group of humans, in history. The sequence of events directly, on and immediately after 9/11 have raised so many questions that believing it could have been an inside job is no longer a conspiracy theory. The number of Medals of Honor is only 18. For a 16-year long conflict, this seems a tiny number. Maybe it would be more if inanimate objects, such as drones, could also be made eligible for medals.

The reason why the presence of a 9/11 conspiracy cannot be ruled out is simple – if a whole population of Americans can be made to move on, accepting that a stupid, irrational idiot named Lee Harvey Oswald could have single-handedly killed a President, then they can be made to believe anything.

Another farcical day is approaching – Veterans Day, celebrated every November 11th. Yes, those very same veterans who on return are first treated as pariah and then made to run from pillar to post, just to get their post-discharge benefits. So, November 11 is round the corner, a time to remember those who fell while fighting ‘to save Americans in America’.

Even though those wars are being waged multiple time zones away.

On Veterans Day, there will be parades, open convertibles with ‘Gold Star Parents’ proudly waving at the adulation from the crowds. Doesn’t matter to them that their son or daughter died fighting an unjust war that they had no business being in, in the first place. Doesn’t matter that most of the soldiers who are shoved into America’s wars are from poor, barely literate families, while the sons and daughters of the rich are able to get deferments for ‘bone spurs’.

On Veterans Day, there will of course be veterans, young and old – on wheel chairs, brought out once a year from the mothballs, their brains befuddled by PTSD, Agent Orange and Moral Injury. Moral Injury, because their minds could have withstood almost anything, except the memory of that little Iraqi girl they accidentally shot or that old Afghan woman they accidentally drove their Humvee over, when all she wanted to do was cross the street to get some naan for dinner that night. Oh yes, those veterans will all be there, their alcohol-puffed faces jaded and sour.

If you are standing, watching the extravaganza with an American friend, he will tell you,” Of course, they fought to prevent attacks by aliens within America.”

You’ll then gape at him and stutter,”But, almost all those attacks so far have been by American citizens, within America – some even by blue blooded white Christian Americans!”

Your American friend is ready with a repartee, sure in his strong Christian faith…”Okay, but they fought to stop the ideology from coming in and destroying us.”

You want to ask him him how an ideology can destroy a citizenry, unless it itself is vulnerable. But you let it go. This is when you suddenly realize you forgot you had a meeting to attend and you excuse yourself and quickly depart.

Veterans Day? A more apt name would have to be “How do we live with ourselves day”

 

Anatomy of a Moose Hunt (Part-1)

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Moose, sighted from Michel’s tree perch, range approx 100 yds – too far (pic courtesy : Michel Gagnon, colleague at work and partner in hunt)

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Have you tried moose? Tastes a lot like horse meat, though a bit more tender. Prepared rare, with fried farm picked potatoes and tomatoes on the side and a jug of Rickard’s Red to wash all that down, a moose steak will bowl you over.

First you got to hunt one of course and in that, the Canadian wilderness affords you ample opportunity.

Moose is the largest member of the deer family and a 1000-lb adult buck is not uncommon. The largest I ever got was a 700-lb King Kong with huge spiked racks on both sides of the head. You know the racks as antlers on deer. While antlers look like large dendritic twigs with branches, a moose’s rack is flat, like a pan with spikes. As for size, deer are way smaller. A whitetail or caribou would rarely go over 350-lbs.

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Moose racks

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Deer antlers

Another thing – moose usually graze in pairs and not family units or herds and therefore you miss one and you can pretty much abandon the hunt for the day. Deer on the other hand appear in large family units of maybe ten – twennie animals, consisting of a coupla bucks, four – five females and six – seven kids and it’s a bit easier not ta miss. And caribou? You’ll find caribou in the tundra, roaming in large sluggishly moving, tightly packed herds of five hundred or more and you have to be a raging schmuck to miss one of them.

That’s how the quota system works – on availability. You’re allowed one moose per two hunters, one deer per hunter and four caribou per hunter, on any given season. Just as well, since a moose carcass really does need two strong guys to handle, cut, clean, load into the truck and all. Hunting moose isn’t meant for men with back and shoulder problems.

Aside from the size and the antlers, moose and deer have similar character traits. The males are suspicious and jumpy. It takes a lot ta make a moose appear in your line of sight and draw him close enough. You got ta have the patience to pin one down and put a round into him. A male won’t venture into your field of vision unless it’s dusk or early dawn. The females on the other hand are more – ‘bindaas’ (that’s Indian for happy-go-lucky). You might catch a doe with her kids sauntering around in full view, in the mid-morning or early afternoon.

Doesn’t mean you can kill a female or the kids though. It depends upon what the permit says. If you are only allowed a male and you end up shooting a doe, you won’t get arrested since killing an animal in season is not a crime. But you can kiss your hunting permit goodbye, along with your precious $2000 Sako .306, your gun license, your gear and – if the ranger has had a fight with his missus that morning – even the pickup truck you drove in on, along with a mandatory fine of around $5000.

But don’t let’s think of what negative things might befall you. This is moose season – time for some fun, time ta replenish your basement freezer with a year’s stock of moose steak and ribs.

Assuming you do have the right permit, it’s way easier to kill a female but then the moment you kill one, your deer or moose season is over for the year and you got ta go home. That’s no fun. It is the challenge of the hunt, the back and forth ‘jugalbandhi’ of those mating calls – the genuine rasping bark-like grunts from the moose, against your doe-in-heat calls ‘khra khra khra’ produced by the ‘Deer Calls Pro’ app you have on your Iphone – astonishingly real ovulating-doe sounds played through those tiny camouflaged bluetooth-ready loudspeakers that you tucked away at vantage locations throughout the clearing where you have your tree stand.

There’s another method – genuine, doe pee ($15 a 100ml bottle). The stench is overpowering. You could sprinkle a few drops on the ground in the middle of the clearing, but I have noted that it doesn’t work with moose buck. To them it’s like, “Oh, yeah? So, some bitch peed, doesn’t mean she’s horny, right?” Deer bucks get turned on by doe pee – moose, no. So, remember to keep your Iphone charged and make sure the speakers didn’t get soaked in last night’s downpour.

Remember I said that your season is over once you shot one animal? It is a bit complicated actually. There are rules for everything, beginning with the exact dates when the season begins and ends, the categories of weapons you are allowed ta use, the hunting license, the firearm license, the zones where you are allowed to hunt, the animals you are allowed to hunt in those zones and the period of the year when you are allowed to hunt specific species and so on. You don’t just heft your Beretta .335, load it into your pickup truck and drive off with a squeal of tyres and spray of gravel.

I could elaborate on each rule but I would urge you ta access the 10-post series on my epic battle to kill a large whitetail I had named Zorba, after Anthony Quinn (link given below). It’s all mentioned there in greater detail –

The hunt for Zorba – Parts 1 to 10

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Moose season closes this weekend, but hang on – it’s only for the crossbow guys. Gun season starts end October. You’ll be surprised just how many hunters in Canada are crossbow enthusiasts. All the guys I know (including yours truly) who hunt with rifles also hunt with crossbows and they really love it.

A rifle hunt is an easy hunt. If you’ve had practice, even a $250 Winchester .306 with scope can put bullet in a whitetail’s brain in 500 yards. Kinda spoils the fun of the chase. But a crossbow is another mother. You have ta get the moose within 60 yards, coz that’s the maximum range. And then you have only one chance, since the ‘thung’ of the string and the ‘thwock’ of the latch are loud enough ta scare the dude away, unless the wind is strong and you happen to be downwind. Besides, a crossbow is a bitch ta load, takes a lot of strength, even with those little winches that crossbows come with these days.

So I left my Lapua Magnum .306 home and brought the TenPoint Vapor along. You can kill moose at 60 yards with a Vapor. When you press the trigger, the latch releases the arrow with a ‘thung!’ The arrow leaps out in a blur, covering 50 feet every second. I use a SlickTrick Magnum broadhead (ie: the arrowhead) – razor sharp, made from the same blue titanium alloy that jet engine blades are made of. It will slice through bone, arteries and tissue like they were made out of butter.

With a crossbow, where you hit the moose is important if you want a swift painless kill. If you get him in the neck or even the upper torso, the bolt will pass right through and bury itself upto the fletching (the rear fins) in the snow beyond. That’s not a good thing – it won’t down the moose immediately and there’s no way you can load another arrow into the crossbow, take aim, adjust range and shoot all within those few seconds that the animal is in your line of sight. He will make a run for it. This is his country and he knows it better than you. He’ll keep running, leaving a long sprinkly trail of blood that you will find hard ta discern in the failing light and the deepening shadows of the twilight. But even if you are able to, imagine huffing and puffing and blundering after him through dense brush. No way you can catch up to him.

Rule-zillion : Don’t run after a wounded moose. First of all, running in knee high brush or snow isn’t easy and can cause serious injury if you trip and fall. This is the wilderness and getting you on a medevac chopper can cost you dear, if you didn’t take out insurance. Second, if you are in bear country (which the Canadian wilderness sure is), you won’t see a black bear coming. Bears easily interpret running as a sign of fear. Soon you – the hunter – will be the hunted, with nothing on you to defend yourself, since you left your crossbow leaning against the tree stand and this not being rifle season, you haven’t brought your .306 on this trip. Also, you can’t slip a Glock19 into your backpack for emergencies since handguns are banned on a hunt. Anyway, chances are that a pack of coyotes or wolves will follow the blood trail better and beat you to it.

So if you want to save your breath and make it short and sweet for the moose, you’ll have to be patient until it is sufficiently close and at the right angle for the heart, lungs or liver. You have to be sure you have lined up a shot that will kill as swiftly as possible. We are hunters, not apathetic sadists who don’t care if the prey is maimed and then waits to get slowly get torn to bits, still alive, by a pack of hungry coyotes.

There’s another reason why a smart hunter doesn’t run after the prey. During moose season, the forests of southern and eastern Quebec are crawling with hunters (especially the government-owned lands where hunting is rent-free). Another hunter – maybe one of those rednecks who has a bottle of Jack Daniels in his jacket pocket that he is constantly swigging from – could mistake you for fleeing whitetail and you might suddenly watch a third nipple grow in the middle of your chest.

I know you love nipples, but three nipples? That is crowd.

(to be continued…)

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Ps: Don’t go away. Part-2 is all about this year’s hunt and the 800-lb Godzilla we got…