Saturday, 8 November 2014

The Man-Eating Rumour

We were resting after a heavy lunch. There were no participatory learning activities scheduled. The Panchayat secretary and two lekhpals entered the room with somber expressions. They requested our permission to provide us with some news. The assembled IAS officers granted permission to impart the news. The panchayat secretary told us that the man-eating tigress terrorizing the area had struck again and close by. It had killed a fakir/baba who lives in a kutir at the edge of the forest. The said killing happened as late as last night. We were aghast. The shocking news sent chills up my spine. I was jesting online only a day ago that the tigress may develop a taste for fat and juicy OTs. What if the tigress did get a whiff of my scent-the scent of a bureaucrat? What if the tigress was active on online social networking platforms? What if it decided to wreak vengeance on me for rejecting her friend request sent from a profile with Katrina’s face as display picture? The conjectures were many.

We decided to visit the site of the killing. For good measure we asked the two UP wala police bhaiyyas to come along with their .303s. The convoy consisted of two motorbikes, a Gypsy and a Scorpio. We could have as well been a travelling circus. The road was a kachha road. It could not have been kachha-er than it was. There were deep ruts from the bullock carts and pot holes 3 feet deep. A two inch layer of fine dust topped the road which was raked up by the tyres and rendered the air a post-apocalyptic yellow/ochre tinge. The silent convoy was an eerie sight. Sugar-cane rose 10 ft on either side, eucalyptus and poplar trees blocked sight of the fields afar. After what seemed like a venture deep in to the uncharted forests, we arrived at a clearing, the said kutir. There were two banyan trees 50 ft tall, a thatched hut open on two sides and a makeshift mandir. There was a farmer, his wife, kids and sugarcane on a bullock cart nearby the kutir. The whole platoon of police, revenue officials and prashikshu adhikaari disposed him to a chatty mood. He informed the gathered government machinery that the baba was safe in a village close by and that there was no tigress attack. The villagers assumed the worst when they saw the contents of the kutir turned upside down and a trail of blood on the floor. Blood on the kutir floor. That there were 15 odd killings by a man-eating tigress in the area only bolstered the villagers' doubts. A drunken brawl and a possible bloody nose led to the wild (but probable) news of an attack by the tigress. Lessons learnt: One needs to verify the information fed by the lower administrative machinery and not take it at face value.

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