Cat on the prowl?
This will sound like a retelling an old tale, because you will have heard it already from the aayah, the milkman, the watchman, the news channel of the local cable network, and the three lines and a picture in thane plus. The incident has long since forgotten by the grapevine, but I'm bringing it up because I never had a chance to take part in the gossip, and frankly speaking, I just had to tell it to somebody, without anyone interrupting their interpretation of their neighbor's version of their son's restatement of his friend's father's eyewitness account. So now here is my narration, and any teachings of hyperbole that I have paid attention to in class have no effect on me. Infact most of this is understatement. Atleast no one can state the excitement that ensued due to the whole thing in hyperbole…
Early on the morning of the fourth of march, an unwelcome visitor slipped stealthily into Vasant Vihar office building. A little later, a watchman went in to change his clothes and saw the creature. He shut the door immediately and raised the alarm.
It promised to be the most exciting day. By eight o clock a large crowd had gathered. A very large crowd had gathered. All of them dying with excitement to catch a glimpse of the creature. Many residents of Panchavati had gathered too, some with cameras, and I was no different. Amongst the excited gossip, the creature evolved from tiger to leopard to cheetah to lion to panther to a premature April fools gag. The crowd settled for the cheetah thanks to the cold drinks in the commercial breaks of the then ongoing cricket world cup. Children were screaming the punchline cheetah bhi peeta hai. Most of them got the day off school, because the excitement was too much to miss. Really. They didn't go. Infact, they joined the crowd.
And what a crowd it was. The cheetah (let's call it that now, for the time being) would have been pulp by now, had the crowd been allowed to go in and see it. All of them were waiting to have a glimpse of it, and were confident enough to face it. None were afraid. Everyone was charged with bravery and courage, in a situation where one would expect them to be frite-ing.
The talk went on for an hour. Then the police came. (crowd bursting with excitement). Then the forest officials came. (crowd exploding with excitement). Then the reporters came. Words all inadequate to describe the state of the frenzy in the crowd. The officials got a large yellow net out and everyone cheered. They put it around the building. Their plan was to put a dart in the cheetah (at this stage, the cheetah idea had become very popular), and make it unconscious and put it in a cage.
So they called the dart guy and waited. The crowd waited too. And they waited. And they waited. And they waited. And then they (naturally) got very tired. Many went home to get refreshments, have breakfast, recharge cameras. Then the dart team came back, and continued their long wait. One and a half hour later, they came.
Utter confusion ensued. I could make out neither head nor tail of the whole thing. I was caught in the middle of a large throng of people all shoving and jostling each other to get into a prime position to look at the cheetah (this being the last time I will bother you without telling what it really turned out to be). The officials (most probably to impress their superiors) shoved us back. The crowd pushed back in return.
The guy with the dart gun went in. Fifteen minutes later, they came back out. Cheers followed cheers as the crowd applauded the capture of the cheetah (one last time, sorry). The officials allowed a small group of people in the front to see it. I was amongst the lucky few.
But I was utterly disappointed. I expected a magnificent giant cat with bulging muscles and smooth skin. Instead, I saw a haggardly starved creature not much bigger than a street dog. I am not a trained person, but to me it really looked like a miniature version of the cheetah in the ad. "Ek baccha nay poora Vasant Vihar ko hila diya". Memorable sentiments of a car washer, and a person who saw the thing.
(The news reports on the local cable networks said it was a leopard. The officials claimed it to be a sher. Thane plus, which everyone will agree is the most credible source, said that it was a panther).
I saw the crowd disperse reluctantly, and the van carrying the panther going ... As soon as I returned home, I began studying for the board exams scheduled for the next day. With the excitement of a panther coming just outside your balcony, what can you dew about it?
- Aditya M J