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Friday, 23 September 2016

The man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. I experienced this while reading Jim Corbett’s the man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag. All that I knew about Jim Corbett was that he was a hunter who gunned down a tiger which had claimed many lives in Uttrakhand. Still he remained an enigma to me.

With the Man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag, I got an opportunity to be with him in his exploits. He builds the premise very well by exhibiting the terror of the leopard in the minds of the people. He tells us how the leopard got used to the taste of human blood. It is a practice in the hills to throw the dead bodies in the valley during epidemic. This is how the leopard got the taste of human blood. Soon the epidemic subsided so did the dead bodies which the leopard got to feast upon. The leopard started to invade human settlements to claim its share of human blood.

This leopard has killed more than one hundred and twenty five people. According to the author this was the most publicized animal. It found mention in the press of United Kingdom, America, Canada, South Africa, Kenya, Malaya, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and of course India.

The leopard hardly made any noise while killing people. It would cross a hundred sheep and even humans, get its prey which was sleeping at the fag end of the crowd considering that he was covered, protected and safe. The leopard would even break open the doors and enter the houses. It would dig a hole into the mud walls and enter the house. The hillmen considered it to be an evil spirit, a Shaitan. They even burnt a Sadhu alive who according to them became the man-eating leopard in the night.

The author was not the only person who tried to gun down the man-eater. Some other hunters tried to kill it, but the leopard had a narrow escape. The author weaves the topography of hills very well. This book is not just about the hills and the man-eater, but also about men and women in the hills who lead a tough life. It is about their fears and hopes. The latter is exhibiting through the help which they offer to the author in his hunting parties.

This true story is a nail biting, hair raising thriller. You can feel the pit into your stomach and the raising pulse as the author approaches the man-eater. You feel disappointed when the man-eater has a narrow escape. This book was first published seventy years ago. The language of the book is old fashioned. The font size is very small and causes strain to the eyes. Yet this book manages to give you goosebumps. This is a book not to be missed.


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