Shardool – Part 4


This is the fourth and the final part. Previously: Shardool 1, Shardool 2, Shardool 3

On his way back he bought some chains. He had decided that Shardool cannot be let loose in the night. He will have to chain him till a permanent solution could be found.

Things went peacefully till one day a man came running to the house,

“VENKATESH! VENKATESH!”

Venkatesh rushed out, “What’s the matter?”

“Your leopard. He has killed one of Surya’s cattle.”

“I am coming with you.”

He loaded his rifle and took it with him.

Shardool was sitting beneath a tree near the fields. He had dragged the kill there and was now gorging on it.

Venkatesh went forward, his rifle ready under his arm, just in case.

“Shardool,” he called

The leopard was busy, his handsome face drenched in the blood of his victim.

“Shardool?”

The leopard looked up but it was not Shardool’s stare that greeted him. It was the stare of a fierce feline ready to defend its kill. The look said it all….it was a warning to back off.

Venkatesh wisely heeded the warning and waited for Shardool to have his fill.

Finally Shardool stood up, stretched himself and cleaned the blood from his face. He went to Venkatesh. It was Shardool the cub Venkatesh had bought home, who now looked at him. Venkatesh paid for the cattle, but knew he had to send Shardool away.

Next day he took his car, loaded Shardool in it and went deep into the nearby jungle. He released the cat when he was about 50 km away from the village. He didn’t look back, it would hurt if he did.

3 days later there was a growl near the porch. Shardool had found his way back.

Venkatesh tried again and again, taking Shardool to different locations at different distances, but he always returned. The villagers were growing uneasy and they had a reason. Venkatesh knew that if he didn’t send Shardool away then, sooner or later the cat might be lynched by some angry mob.

He wrote to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, which was the nearest to his place. The officials and keepers there would know how to handle him.

Their reply was positive and Venkatesh took Shardool there, which he hoped will be Shardool’s permanent residence.

Since Shardool had spent his life between humans, the officials caged him in a large enclosure. They couldn’t risk putting him the wild suddenly. The transition would have to be gradual. After taking one look, Venkatesh returned.

A week later he got a call from the Sanctuary. Shardool was not eating anything.

He rushed there and went straight to the enclosure. Shardool greeted him with a happy sound. But his body was weak. The stomach was pushing inside. But still he was happy to see Venkatesh and conjured up all his strength to get up for his master. Shardool ate and drank to his fill in presence of Venkatesh.

Venkatesh got up to leave and looked at Shardool. The beast looked back, his eyes betrayed his desire to go home with his master. But Venkatesh couldn’t do it. He leaved with a heavy heart.

A week later he got another call from the officials in the night.

Shardool had fallen ill after another week of hunger strike. Venkatesh made preparations to start for the place at dawn. He reached there the next morning. Shardool didn’t even have the strength to call out, but his eyes betrayed his happiness. Venkatesh went inside and lifted the head gently.  He tried to force the food down but the Shardool spat it out. He licked the hands of his master and his head dropped. The effort had been too much for him. Shardool had died happily in the arms of his master.

Venkatesh was speechless. Tears filled his eyes but didn’t drop. He opened his mouth but no voice came out. He went home without speaking to anyone. He sat beneath the tree Shardool had used to hide his kill and stared blankly at nothing.

It was the same feeling he had had when his dog had died. He was broken.

Then he saw a boy with a pup in his arms.

“Hey boy. Where are you taking it?”

“The mother died during delivery. The pup is too weak. Don’t know what to do with it.”

“Come. Let me see”

The pup was no bigger than Venkatesh’s fist. Its body hairless and eyes closely shut. It was vulnerable and called to mum.

A smile crossed Venkatesh’s face and his hands reached his pocket.

“I will buy it from you.”

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Comments
One Response to “Shardool – Part 4”
  1. durga says:

    this is a very realistic scenario, but I only hoped the leopard survived for the sake of it

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