'Mr Mathur has been attacked by a panther.' The news spread like wildfire in Alwar, a small town known for its proximity to the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary.
While some said he was mauled during a hunting trip, others said he was trying to tame the animal because he wanted to keep it as a pet. Since both versions sounded farfetched, we were eager to know the correct version from the man himself. We trooped down to Mathur’s house, which was located right in the heart of the town.
Curious onlookers had gathered around the house. Some surrounded him, listening to the jungle tale. The braveheart himself was trying to behave as modestly as possible. The real story, as told to us by Mathur, was something like this: on the day of the incident, he woke up early and headed towards the kitchen to make some tea for himself. Just as he walked into the room, he saw a tail quivering behind some chairs. Thinking it was a cat, he tried to shoo it away. Instead, a full-grown panther appeared, snarling. Terrified, Mathur called for help. Meanwhile, the animal made good use of the commotion and scampered up a huge tree.
The family called the forest department. After some time, the forest officials, arrived on the scene, completely at a loss as to how to capture the animal without injuring it. They did not even have a tranquilliser gun. They made several attempts to capture the animal with, believe it or not, a black tablecloth. Needless to add, such half-baked attempts failed miserably. The only option left was to shoot the panther.
This incident happened about two decades ago. Since then, much has happened at Sariska: big cats have been killed mercilessly by poachers. And now, there is news that tigers will be reintroduced into the forest reserve. But are we prepared to take care of our special guests considering our past record?