Chances are that you wouldn’t have heard of the Buarpui village in the Lunglei District of Mizoram or of Pi Zadingi, who was conferred the Shaurya Chakra by the President of India in 1980 for an act of absolute nerve and fearlessness that will blow your mind.
The Mizos consider Pi Zadingi to be one of the bravest women in their community, and we would have to agree—the woman singlehandedly killed a tiger in a death-defying situation where her life, as well as that of her 3-month-old son, were at stake.
This article does not mean to glorify wildlife hunting or disrespect animal rights activists, because the 26-year-old mother was trapped in a complicated situation—either to kill or be killed—and she did what any mother would have done—save her child from the claws of death even if her own life was at stake!
It was still dark when Pi Zadingi was hiking through the thick forests near Buarpui to collect firewood on the morning of July 3, 1978.
Despite being asked by her neighbours to accompany them, she had set out on her own along with her son, Lalhmingthanga, so that they could return home as soon as possible.
However, fate had other plans. As she ventured deeper into the woods, she ended up finding a spot with a couple of dead trees and decided to chop these down for her household use. Laying her son down under the shade of a tree, she got to work.
She was done chopping two logs of wood when she suddenly heard deep and gruff panting sounds nearby. However, when she looked up and quickly gauged her surroundings, she couldn’t see any person or animal around and went back to chopping. Moments later, she heard the rough panting sounds again, and this time, when she looked down the cliff, she spotted the head of a tiger amidst the bushes and a pair of bright eyes staring right back at her!
There was no room for caution, as even a twitch of the eyelid could have proven to be fatal. As the tiger began inching closer, only one thought crossed her mind, “I will not live to care for my son,” and her grip on the chopping axe tightened.
Before Pi Zadingi knew it, adrenaline-driven fearlessness had overtaken her. The tiger leapt with the intention to kill, but in a single stroke, she managed to axe it right on the forehead!
According to local publications, the blow hadn’t been a light one for the axe had managed to penetrate the tiger’s skull and killed it instantly. But the fearless woman didn’t escape unscathed. The tiger had managed to severely injure one of her hands with its claws before succumbing to death.
Interestingly, at the time of the incident, Pi Zadingi had also been three months pregnant with her second child, and her act of steely courage managed to save not two, but three lives!
She was later bestowed with the Shaurya Chakra as a recognition of her act of sheer courage and nerve.
Pi Zadingi is 66-year-old today and lives with her husband and five children in Buarpui. The Forest Department of the Mizoram government eventually acquired the skin of the dead tiger, and if you happen to visit the Aizawl Museum, you will still find it on display.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)