My Dear Friends,
I am feeling very nostalgic today. Flashes and glitters of the most memorable phase of life are rushing into my brain faster than adrenaline. A little adventure into the nearest forest, a short trek into the Eastern Ghat mountains, studying an elephant's foot prints, messing with a gentlemanly crab in the solitary mountain stream...and sweating till the pants hearing about the terror of tigers...are just flashing by... If life could be viewed from the other side of the telescope, I would do that at least twice every week...just to get a different perspective.
It was one of those days...I had finished reading Man-eaters of Kumaon for the fifth time...and I had got hold of my next prize...Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag.( I was in my study room and I was reading it by carefully hiding it in my social science book...just to save my hide from MOM.).
...It was quite late in the night...it was raining with the mighty rhythm of monsoon. And I was reading about the strict curfew the leopard had imposed from sun down for eight long years around Rudra Prayag and in an elliptical vicinity of around 100 miles and even more. I was so immersed in that...even a little noise out of the blue would have been enough to set me on fire.
If you would like to know more about what my situation was, let me narrate the specific incident for you. One of the instances of terror that the Man-eating Leopard was truly infamous for is the incident of the Pahadi (people from the Himalayan Mountains) woman who took refuge at the local Pandit's open rest area to sleep at night.
...At sun down a group of worn out pilgrims came to the Pandit's place asking his permission to sleep in his open rest area. The Pandit could not persuade them to go elsewhere even after mentioning about the terror of the leopard. So the Pandit gave them their supplies and before he locked himself in his house for the night, the Pahadi woman, who was running late for her village, asked the Pandit's permission to join the pilgrims.The woman knew about the leopard and chose the most secure place to sleep. The place was so chosen that if the leopard came to kill, it had to cross over all the pilgrims before coming down to her. …So she was indeed at the safest place of all. Deep in the night a pilgrim woke up with a sharp pain thinking that she is being stung by a scorpion and saw a bit of blood in her toe. Accusing her of spoiling the sleep of everyone and saying that scorpion bite does not cause bleeding, the pilgrims went off to sleep...
|Corbett with the man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag (Source: Wikipedia)|
What analyzing the ground and probing the pug marks revealed was beyond the pilgrims' imagination…The leopard came right after sunset; around the time the Pahadi woman got situated at the inner most portion of the rest shed. That portion of the shed extended a bit into a perpendicular hillock which provided a natural protection against the leopard… after everyone went off to sleep the leopard came, walked over all the pilgrims without even touching any one of them...got a hold of the Pahadi woman's throat in such a way that she could not make any noise even close to a whisper, lifted the woman whole in air and took off . And while the leopard was retreating with the Pahadi woman the poor pilgrim's toe was cut by the leopard's claws that everybody thought to be a scorpion sting. (Let's stop for a moment, close our eyes, and imagine ourselves in that situation in a dark night in the year 1922.) The leopard killed the woman at the nearby fence, and then carried it for a good three hundred yards before having his human meal.
I am sure I'll get more opportunity to talk about some more incidents later...may be I can convince you about the real rule of terror that the leopard had enforced at sun down for eight long years...But for now...if you visit Rudra Prayag, the confluence (Samskruta name Prayag) of Alakanada and Mandakini
Still ...when you are lying in your couch… deep in the night...fast asleep...the nocturnal scouting of a pair of feline eyes in your dreams...may frighten you...
Talk to you later...