The Tiger in the Tunnel Questions and Answers
by Ruskin Bond

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Analyze "Tiger in the Tunnel" by Ruskin Bond.

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Hello! Ruskin Bond writes about India with warmth and admiration. Recently a recipient of the 2014 Padma Bhushan award (the third highest civilian award in India, in the field of Literature and Education), Bond tells the tale of a father and son is a story of courage and resilience. In "Tiger In The Tunnel," we read about a family living on the outskirts of a jungle forest in India. Tembu is twelve years old and lives with his father, Baldeo, his mother, and his sister in a small tribal village. The rice field they depend on hardly provides all they need to survive; to supplement their income, Baldeo also works as a night watchman for the railroad. Baldeo's job is to signal that the tunnel is free of obstruction so that the mail train can pass through safely at night.

One night, after taking care of his usual duties, Baldeo encounters a tiger. The tiger is fierce and attacks him relentlessly. Baldeo is unafraid, defending himself with the small axe he usually carries on his nightly excursions. However, the brave father is no match for the tiger. Even though Baldeo wounds the tiger terribly, he is brutally cut down. The whole family mourns for Baldeo for two days, and Tembu takes over his father's job of lighting the signal lamp for the train. He has now inherited his father's axe and is proud to be the man of the house. Ruskin Bond highlights the courage and resilience of the tribal Indian family. Tembu, his mother, and his sister mourn their loss, but do not dwell on their grief. Time is a luxury not to be had for the average villager. Death and life exist side by side: to survive, one must endure with courage and with tenacity. Sons carry on their father's responsibilities as soon as they are able, and sometimes even before they are ready. In Tembu's case, he must put on the mantle of head of the household and principal bread-winner at the tender age of twelve. He does not complain nor does he shrink from his new burden:

There was nothing to be afraid of- his father had killed the tiger, the forest gods were pleased; and besides, he had the axe with him, his father's axe, and he now knew how to use it.

Tembu feels he has every advantage now. The tiger is now dead, and the forest gods have been appeased by Baldeo's sacrifice. Tembu has in his possession the axe which has already killed the famous "tunnel-tiger." This axe was fashioned by his grandfather, passed on to his father, and is now his to wield. Tembu comes from a long line of men who have bravely protected and provided for their families. We can see that the axe is a symbol of manhood; like his father before him who once used the axe to kill a young boar (and thus provided his family with meat for three days), Tembu will now fulfill his purpose and his role with confidence. He has the memories and the example of both his father and grandfather to sustain him.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the question.

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