Tara Gembal (30) stared ahead in stoic silence, unable to speak. She answered in weary monotones, exhausted from having wept for her husband, Harishchandra, who was killed by a lioness at Sanjay Gandhi National Park on Tuesday, through the previous night.
Her daughter, Manisha (17), sat silently next to her, still finding it hard to accept that her father was no more.
Harishchandra’s death has left a gaping hole in the lives of his wife and daughter. The duo has no clue as to what they should do now that the family’s only wage earner has passed away.
“My daughter is only 17 and I don’t have a job. It’s hard enough to accept that my husband won’t walk in through the door anymore, but we’re forced to put our grief aside to find a way to feed ourselves,” said Tara, her voice shaking as her eyes welled up with tears. “The authorities have given us a letter promising me and my daughter jobs, but we don’t know how long it will take them to deliver. What are we to do till then?” she asked.
Neighbours said that Harishchandra, a temporary worker at the park, was a jovial and pleasant man. “He interacted well with all of us and never caused any trouble. He even quit alcohol recently because the habit upset his wife and daughter. He hadn’t touched a drop for over four months,” said Asha Kawle, a neighbour.
According to the neighbours, a lion and a lioness mauled Harishchandra while he was closing the gate to the safari enclosure after letting out the last bus for the day.
“We heard that the animals followed closely behind the bus, so nobody saw them until it was too late. The male dragged him into the enclosure. The authorities told us that they found Harishchandra’s body at about 11 pm,” said Sanket Malusare (16).