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Would You Believe My Father’s Tale of Battling a Crocodile?

Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal writes about a delightful tall tale her father, a Parkinson’s patient, regaled her family with

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The ‘Crocodile’ Story that Became the Stuff of Legend...

One hot summer day, the three heroes of this story, decided to swim at the confluence of the Bhavani and Cauvery rivers.

Cheenu was 12, and Padu and Krishna, 10 and 8 respectively. As all boys did in those days, they had stripped down to their shorts and were horsing around in the river, without a care in the world. Splashing water, pulling each other under, leap frogging over bare bony shoulders, and competing to see who could hold their breath the longest underwater. Basically having fun.

Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal writes about a delightful tall tale her father, a Parkinson’s patient, regaled her family with

Hand-to-Hand Combat With a Croc – Man’s Bizarre Battle?

But this summer day, the fun did not last long. All of a sudden a crocodile attacked them. This beast was a fright to see. Over 50 feet in length, with a long powerful tail that could break a tree in half. The scariest of all was its massive head and long jaw full of large razor sharp teeth.

The crocodile did not realise that he had met his match, for our young boys were brave and strong and intelligent – completely in-tune with each other. As one being, Padu jumped on the massive crocodile’s shoulders, encircling and squeezing its neck with his arms, while Krishna the youngest, punched at his eyes, and Cheenu, the eldest, stuck his hand into the crocodile’s massive mouth and grabbed his tongue, wrapping it around his forearm to prise the crocodile’s jaws open.

Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal writes about a delightful tall tale her father, a Parkinson’s patient, regaled her family with
(Photo: iStockphotos)

The crocodile battled with the boys for over an hour, churning the water white, trying to dislodge the boys. But they would not let go. The crocodile could not win. They were battling for their lives.

Finally exhausted, the crocodile gave in and calmed down, lying as docile as a sleepy cow on the bank of a river. In consideration of the crocodile’s spirited fight, the boys released the crocodile to continue his swim in the Bhavani/ Cauvery rivers.

Even now, when the boys – now men – go to the river, the crocodile comes to see them. The crocodile performs corkscrew rolls of joy in the water before standing on his hind legs balanced on his tail, shedding tears of gratitude. He then bows his head to thank Cheenu, Padu, and Krishna for his life. Descendants of the crocodile, still perform this ritual, when any of the brothers visits the confluence of the Bhavani and Cauvery rivers.

Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal writes about a delightful tall tale her father, a Parkinson’s patient, regaled her family with
(Photo: iStockphotos)
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This is a story that my father, Anna, says he and his brothers made up when Anna was about 12. He says that their three younger sisters believed the story and that their four elder sisters were undecided about its truthfulness :-)

Anna has a scar on his forehead that he has always attributed to the fight with the crocodile. None of us have ever been able to determine the real story behind that scar.

Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal writes about a delightful tall tale her father, a Parkinson’s patient, regaled her family with
Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal at a city mall with her father who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008.  (Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

With each telling of this tale, over the last 75 years, there have been changes. From the colour of the crocodile, to its length, which brother did what, how long they fought, etc. What stays consistent is that they fought a crocodile and that even now it pays the-tribute-of-the-defeated to the three boys.

Every child in the extended Kalamangalam family has heard this story from one if not all the brothers. Not once, but many times. At family gatherings there is at least one recitation of this story. And every child has believed it, if only for a period of time.

(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)

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