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Rini Basu



Rini Basu


The Leopard

The Leopard

4 mins 308 4 mins 308

Suntalekhola is a small, picturesque hamlet in the Duars region in North Bengal. A few years back we made a trip to the forests of Duars. Hearing about the scenic beauty of Suntalekhola we added the place to our itinerary.

The resort in which we were lodging was surrounded by thick forest. The ambience was serene and peaceful and the scenic beauty was indeed awesome. One thing about the resort baffled me. A mesh of electrical wires surrounded the boundary wall. When I asked the manager he said,

"Madam, the wires are kept for the safety of our boarders. Wild animals, especially leopards, often come down from higher altitudes in search of food and warmth. Given a chance they can even enter the premises and attack you. We switch on these wires at night so that the animals get a mild electric shock whenever they try to get inside."

I thought it would be pretty adventurous if we could catch a glimpse of a leopard during our two-day-stay at the resort.

On the following day our room boy informed that a fair was going on in the neighbouring village. We did not feel any interest in going but the children did. Hence we decided to humour them and asked the manager to arrange for a car to take us to the fair in the afternoon.

Before leaving we had a talk with the manager to learn about the route. He said, "Don't worry Sir, your driver knows the route. He will tell you which way to go from the bus-stop."

Ani, my husband, was a bit perplexed.

"Bus-stop? Won't the car take us directly to the village?"

"No Sir, there's no motorable way to the village from the bus-stop. The car will wait at the bus-stop while you walk through a narrow forest track for about fifteen minutes to reach the village. But I would advise you to return before sundown."

"Why?" asked I.

"There's a trek route to the Neora Valley National Park passing through the way you will walk. Sometimes leopards of that forest follow that route and come down at night. Hence it will be safer to return before dark."

After hearing this Ani became skeptical about taking the children at the fair. The manager assured us that it would be perfectly safe to take them provided that we followed his instructions. We agreed and started our journey.

Minutes after we reached the fair the sky got covered with thick, dark clouds accompanied by gusts of wind indicating the approach of a norwester. Shop keepers promptly closed their temporary stalls and ran homewards. So did the villagers. We cursed our bad luck and followed them. Soon we reached that part of the way which led to the Neora Valley Forest. It was an exhausting uphill walk and we stopped for a few moments to regain our breath. It was those few moments of stopping that saved our lives.

Above the roar of the storm a combined sound of pattering feet and rustling leaves could be heard approaching from the upper slopes. All of a sudden a huge leopard leaped on the track a short distance ahead of us. It was carrying a rooster in its mouth. Had we not stopped it would have landed right upon us. We stood frozen, not knowing what to do. My two children hid behind me, scared to bits. The leopard stopped in its track and turned it's head to stare at us. Oh my god, I shall never forget the ferocious expression in it's firey eyes. I saw Ani pick up a thick, dry branch from the roadside to protect ourselves in case the leopard attacked. The leopard couldn't have stopped there for more than a few seconds but to us it seemed like eternity. Suddenly there was a flash of lightning followed by a loud rumble of thunder. The terrified leopard immediately sprang and disappeared down the hill.

Big, cold drops of rain brought us back to our senses and we started running towards our car.

Soon we were safely seated inside the car and on our way to the resort. We thanked our lucky stars for getting saved as well as that memorable adventure.

(True story)

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