A contemporary piece of art - oil on canvas, rendered in a century and a half old realistic style that the artists of the subcontinent innovated and developed around 1860-70 A.D., the painting represents a theme that urban mind, even in India, shall take as a thing of tale-tell type but at least once a while the rural population in some parts of the country still encounters in real life. The painting portrays a tiger attacking a grass-harvesting couple when it was out in the forest gathering grass. As suggest the suckle and a few bundles of grass lying close by, the tiger attacked the husband when unaware he was engaged in tying the harvested grass into bundles. It seems that the tiger’s mighty attack pushed him away from the stack of the grass bundles and along him were dragged also some bundles.
The tiger’s attack is full of force; however, the grass-harvester does not meekly give in. He holds the tiger’s forelegs against his thighs and prevents the beast’s jaws from penetrating teeth deeper into his abdomen by holding it by neck. Though with all his energies and will-power put to work, against the beast’s forceful push he succeeds in holding himself on his legs and keeps his strife on to save his life. Agony, fear and exertion of his struggle to protect his life reflect in his wide open mouth, staring eyes and tense face, though it does not betray helplessness and there lurks in them a hope. Besides portraying the grass harvester – his lean and thin figure, protruding cheek-bones, socketed eyes, bowing back, rough skin …, realistically the artist has revealed him inside out. He has not only explored his inner being with a psycho-analyst’s accuracy but has also translated it on his canvas as much sensitively.
Towards the tiger’s tail stands the grass harvester’s wife – agonized, furious and agitated, waving the axe in her hands into air targeting it on the beast. The usual routine of the peasantry in field, after day’s work is over and the male partner begins collecting things the female partner moves around and collect firewood. Hence, it seems that the wife with axe was collecting firewood from around when she heard her husband shriek and rushed to the spot and impulsively raised the axe she had in her hands. The shock reflects in her eyes, and the pace with which she had rushed to the spot, in her flying ‘odhani’ – upper wear, and braid of hair. Dauntless she moves close to the beast and raises her weapon on it. Pitiably her husband looks at her but instead of looking back she keeps her eyes are fixed on the animal.
Not merely the tiger, the artist has portrayed both the husband and the wife most realistically, the woman colourfully clad, and the man, in the turban and ‘dhoti’ a four meter large textile but entire length collected around the thighs and waist. Whether the artist illustrated an accident he had personal knowledge of or created it by sheer imagination he has rendered it quite realistically : the real class of people, an event as it really happens though sometimes in life, real agony, real fears, real agitation, real strife and effort to survive. As real is the background that the artist has chosen : a marshy stretch of land around a hilly terrain, patches of water close-by and a forest a little away – an ideal geography for a tiger. Unlike what the common mind perceives, tigers live in thinly laid forests and in marshy grass-covered patches of land often in marshy grasses or in the mist of low height bushes.
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