Wild animals are not all 'man-eaters' waiting to pounce on humans... as the protagonist realises!
Trudging along the sandy path, with the satchel weighing heavy on his shoulders, Mohan thought to himself, “I wonder how Raima ma’am will punish me today for not completing my homework. Isn’t she getting tired of same cat and mouse routine every day?”
Preoccupied in his mental deliberations on the dreary Monday morning, he didn’t hear the babbling group of women approach him, until one of them playfully flicked him behind the ear and asked him to straighten his posture and hold his head high while walking, which if he failed to do, would bring shame to his family.
As they walked away, carrying water from the river back to the village, Mohan could hear fragments of their idle conversation, “Last night… man eater… again… menace… mercy… by God’s grace… crops destroyed… Mamta’s baby…”
“Hmm…I wonder what that was about. I had a peaceful sleep last night, there were a lot of mosquitoes though…,” trailed off Mohan’s thoughts as he continued on the long way to his school, occasionally kicking a rock or two in his path. As he kicked one to the side forcefully, into the dense cover of trees, he heard the rustling of leaves, louder than what one would expect on the impact of a pebble.
Representational image of a leopard © Biddappa P A
He moved on, thinking nothing of it, until a low growl reached his ears, accompanied by even more shuffling. He turned around and what he saw made him jump. There stood, not five feet away, a glaring, but majestic leopard, slender in its form, with its tail slightly curled towards the end. There seemed to be smeared a bit of blood on its whiskers, which twitched slightly, hinting at the recent demise of an unfortunate prey.
Nonetheless it looked as mesmerizing as it looked fierce. As the animal lazily opened its mouth to give out a bored yawn, Mohan was ready to bolt, but found himself rooted to the place, transfixed by the animal’s hypnotic eyes. “This is the end,” he thought “I never should have complained about what Amma made for dinner last night, she didn’t seem very happy about it and now I won’t get to cheer her up with my singing. I wish I had eaten that piece of chocolate yesterday instead of saving it for today. Silly me."
As his mind tried to make coherence out of the situation, the leopard slowly started to step towards him. However, as Mohan’s eyes widened in terror and time stopped in its tracks, one of the beast’s paws crossed the other one and it turned away, exiting the path, disappearing into the forests with the same rustling of leaves that had announced its arrival.
After a minute or two, legs trembling, Mohan hiked up his trousers and ran as fast as he could towards the safe grounds of his school. Knowing that his life had been spared that day he told himself, “Phew! I promise you God, I will never skip on my homework ever again!
Written by Khushi Jain, one of the winners in the WCS-India Wildlife Week Contest.
Khushi is currently a 3rd year undergraduate student pursuing B.Sc. (Honors) Zoology at the University of Delhi.