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Shashi Sarma

Thriller


4.8  

Shashi Sarma

Thriller


The Maneater

The Maneater

6 mins 43 6 mins 43

It was somewhere in the year 1968 when Jaipur was not properly developed. The beautiful main city was surrounded by dense forest cover especially near Sariska leading towards the hilly area nearby. There was a small village at the edge of this cordoned area. This village was nested along a forest and looked picturesque under the sunshine. It was in the month of April late afternoon that Narayan, a villager whose farm sat at its edge was working on his farm and then thought of collecting firewood from the nearby forest. He collected the log and held it at and sat under a tree. He lighted the cigarette and started smoking. He liked to make rings of smoke he was busy. And Then, a hint of a flash at the corner of his eye fleeting sense of danger. He was still busy smoking and had not looked up. Why the serenity of an approaching dust wood stifles any premonitory glimmer. But as Narayan looked up, he saw a full-grown tiger walking towards him. He thankfully turned around and frantically ran backward. In his pell-mell fight, he banged into a eucalyptus tree, the collision leaving a deep mark on his right cheek. He ran fast for his survival and was able to climb a tree. He shouted for help. Narayan escaped death as few farmers working in the nearby farms came to his help and he survived. Narayan could not sleep for a week or so. He used to get nightmares.


The villagers suspected it's the same tiger who had killed the village dog and a goat two months back. And then came the news that a 62-year-old woman named Soma got mauled to death by some wild beast. Then one young boy was taken away during his sleep by some wild beasts. Due to darkness, no one could make out that it was a tiger. After this incident villagers became alert and kept eye everywhere while working in the field. Everyone started taking precautions. They complained to the forest department but no one was able to catch him. The Tiger also sensed danger. It used to stroll after dusk. A well -known Hunter was also hired but nothing could be done. Now the news of killing small children playing near the water hole by the tiger started coming from the nearby villages. The panic was so much that old people, children, and women were afraid of going out even during the day.


One day, the forest department noticed the pugmarks near the water hole. They arranged to either kill him or catch him. The hunter was called. Everything was planned. A goat was tied to a tree as bait. It was around mid-night; the hunter and other staff heard the growling noise of a tiger approaching the goat. The goat was tied around the tree in a cage that if the tiger goes nearby, he would be caged. The tiger could sense the danger and did not go near the cage and moved towards the opposite direction and vanished in the darkness. No success was got that night. Again, the same planning was executed. This time the tiger approached the goat around 1:30 at night. As it tried to go near, a shot flew at him and he jumped high and ran towards the dense area. The Hunters team started following the bloodstains and at last, they found the tiger lying on the ground struggling for life. He was hit at the chest. The Hunter shot another bullet at him to be sure of his kill. Then his body was brought out from the forest to the village. Everyone took a sigh of relief. The villagers celebrated and thanked the hunter and his team. Then for 3 to 4 months, nothing happened. The villagers thought that they were safe now as they got rid of the maneater.

In the village, there was a big Haveli owned by a Bengali family. They had a joint family. They owned a very big property in that village. They were leading a comfortable life. The villagers respected them as they were the rich landlords of that village. Some of them even worked at their home. During those days in August, a young boy of 16 years named Pratap Mukherjee had gone from Delhi to that village to spend his holidays with his maternal uncle and grandparents. He loved to spend his time there amidst forest and doing fishing in the small lake with his maternal uncle. His favorite uncle was Bibhu who was 26-year-old, thin having wide eyes, a sharp nose, and was a good swimmer. He had developed the habit of drinking and doing fishing. One evening Pratap and Bibhu went towards the so-called small lake after the rain had stopped. The cool breeze was blowing. Both of them had taken some snacks to eat while doing fishing. They were busy talking to each other and enjoying the snacks. Bibhu was drinking and chatting. The high elephant grass had covered the edges across the lake. They were busy and could not realize that it started getting dark. Suddenly Pratap noticed two green bulbs like things across the lake under the high grass. He told his uncle about it and asked him to get up. He could sense danger but uncle wanted to stay more to enjoy the cool breeze. After a few seconds, Pratap again noticed that there was some commotion on the other side. Both realized that it was none other than a tiger looking at them. They both got up and hurriedly jumped into the water for their escape as they knew that big cats usually avoid killing its prey in the water. As the tiger also came in the lake, Pratap and Bibhu had no option left then to swim further upwards near the hill area. Now they were far from their house and no help was available to accept reaching the high hill where an old hermit had his hutment. While swimming, one thorny bush got entangled around one of the feet of Pratap. It made it difficult for him to swim fast. Bibhu broke the branch and held his arm and swam fast. At last, they reached near the high mount. They found that Tiger was far behind. They managed to reach the hermitage. He was an old man in his 70s. It was rumored that he was such a holy soul that in his hermitage tiger and goat sat together and not harmed anyone. It was 10 o'clock then. The old man with a grey beard called them inside the room and started talking to them. After listening to the whole story, he brought some Herbs paste and tied it on the feet of Pratap. He warned them not to go back at that hour. He said that at night the Tigers come there and on seeing both of them they might harm them. Though it would not happen in his presence he wanted them to take precautions. He further added that the forest departments patrolling police come around 12:30 at midnight. Both of them could go back along with them. Both agreed. Then the old man offered them some fruits and warm milk to drink. At night the patrolling police approached the hut and asked the old man if everything was alright. He then opened the door and requested the police to drop Pratap and Bibhu back home. They agreed and were dropped back. On their way, the policeman told both of them that the man-eater was still alive and one of his siblings got killed by the Hunters. But they did not tell the villagers as it would create panic. Rather they patrolled at night to keep the maneater at bay. That night Pratap could never forget.


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