A Roving Leopard and the Man-Eaters of Tsavo

Wildlife always fascinates me, however, in my childhood, I was not much inclined towards National Geographic or Animal Planet. This interest thrived in me as the sand of time seeped, just like the way humans grow gradually, or you may say I came across my nature a little bit lately. But now I perceive that wildlife is very imperative for the human existence. It is so heart-wrenching that a man, in this so-called capitalistic system, has no while to explore the secrets of nature, to contemplate the nature and to learn from the nature. Alas! The capitalistic system has made man so lethargic and mean.

In Quran, Allah Almighty asks us, repeatedly, to travel into this vast land and see how He has manifested it with colourful birds, aromatic flowers and adorable creatures. In Surah Al-Hajj, Allah  says, “So have they not travelled through the earth and have hearts by which  to reason and ears by which to hear? For indeed, it is not eyes that are blinded, but blinded are the hearts which are within the breasts.” (22-46)

I often wonder why God has emphasized on traveling and the inspection of nature. Then, I come to a conclusion that human body is very complex, it can’t live in a tedium atmosphere all the time. Sometimes body wants peace and it’s only the company of nature which can heal our sorrows and worries.

The story which I am going to tell you has a fascinating connection with the nature and wildlife. In 2014, my uncle showed me a movie titled, “The Ghost and the Darkness.” The reason behind this watch was that, on 14th Feb, 2014, a leopard came to our village you can say it was just 2km away from our village, and attacked a farmer. And this movie has so much resemblance with that incident.

The movie is  based on a real story, on the adventure of Lft-Colonel John Henry Patterson. In March 1898, Patterson was assigned to supervise the construction of a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya. At that time, Africa was under the notorious British Empire. The decision to build a bridge was taken in order to connect Uganda with the Indian Ocean, through railway. On a serious note, some colonial apologists still thanks to British for constructing railways, but I must remind you here; never forget that they built these railways only to quickly transport the raw materials from the colonised countries to their own.

Anyhow when Colonel Patterson arrived at the beautiful, vast and rich land of Africa, as in words of John Hemingway; If I have ever seen magic, it has been in African. He didn’t realise that he was going to face the unusual and ferocious Man-Eaters. After camping near the Tsavo river, he started supervising the construction, but to his surprise, at one dark night, they were attacked by the lions.

These lions were very different from the other lions, their way of eating and taking people from their camps to their den was surprisingly uncommon among the lions. They killed more than 20 people and many were wounded. At times, workers decided to leave the construction and come back to their homes, because they thought that these lions were not actually lions, in fact they were devils with the mission to stop Englishmen from conquering the world.

Well after a lot of terror, John Henry Patterson bravely killed those two heavyweight and barbarous lions and later sold their dead bodies to the Field Museum. To know the details of this incident you may read Patterson’s book titled, “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.”

As I told you in the beginning a same kind of incident happened near our village. At that time, when my uncle showed me the movie I was only 14 years old, so it didn’t create curiosity in me. But now as we all are in isolation due to Covid’19, I am in my village for almost 4 months. In this pandemic, I thought to visit that place and meet that person, to know when or with whom the incident happened. So to know what exactly happened to that person, as there were much rumours about it, I took Ammar and Sheroz; my cousins to visit that place with me. While walking towards the destination, I was constantly thinking about the Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

There are few things in common between these two incidents. Firstly, the vastness and silence of the lands and secondly, the passing of river where the attacked happened. In case of first incident, the Man-Eaters attacked near the Tsavo river and the second incident happened near a canal that passes near the village. While walking on that hot and barren land, I was very excited and afraid at the same time. The fear in me was not because of the fact that everyone cares about his life but because of the two little cousins who were accompanying me in that adventure.

Anyhow when we reached at Dera Nawaz Ka, a native name of the farmhouse. I asked from one the local inhabitants about the name of the person who was attacked and the location of his house. He told me that his name, which was Mohsin Nawaz, and guided us towards his house. When we arrived at his Dera, he was laying on a Chaarpai. We too after greetings, sat on the nearby Chaarpai.

I told him that I came here to know what exactly happened on 14 Feb 2014. He said, “Janab pahle apna tarruf to karwaey.” ( Please introduce yourself first). I said, “I am the grandson of Muhmmad Rafiq.” The reason why I introduced myself from my grandfather’s name was that he has maintained a huge reputation, not only in his village but in all nearby villages. The one reason is that he is a politically active man and above all, a great human.

So after knowing about my grandfather, he said, “oh what would you like to drink then.” I denied with a polite Thank you” After silence of a few minutes, he broke his silence and said, “It was on 14 Feb 2014 I woke up early in the morning as usual and went into the fields, which are about half a kilometer away from his house, and I didn’t notice anything. But when I went again into the fields at afternoon, I was walking in the bushes and suddenly I saw a big leopard hiding behind the tree. I was shocked. In fact, I lost my mind.

As I made an eye-contact with him, he jumped over me  and wounded me badly and I swooned at the moment.” I interrupted him and said, “I’ve listened it on National Geographic that we should not make an eye-contact with the leopard.” He smiled, in response.

I further asked him, “Who then killed the leopard.” He said, “I don’t know.” At this point I felt as if he was hesitating to tell me about it in a detailed manner as if I was an secret agent. Then he suddenly spoke and said, “I think after attacking me, he sat on another nearby place, there people might have killed him.”

After this, he showed me the healed wound, around the forehead and the area upper his left eye, where the leopard imprinted his claws. After 6 years, still the marks were clear on his body. Finally, I asked him, ”  Where did the leopard actually came from?” He replied with a smile, “I really don’t know but a popular notion is that it came from India due to the heavy monsoon.” I thanked him for providing us the information and asked him to point out the place where exactly the leopard appeared.” He pointed out with his finger towards the bushes.

We left his farmhouse to visit that place. While going towards the mysterious bushes I mocked at my cousins and said, “See! There is a clear dichotomy in between what we listened from the people and what we heard from the victim himself.” Because we were told that the victim himslef killed the leopard. I further advised them not to believe anything until you critically examine it.

Well when we  reached at the place, where the leopard attacked the farmer, I again lost myself into the thoughts: The manner in which the leopard terrorized the people at village is exactly the same as the Man-Eaters of Tsavo left the workers with many sleepless nights. Believe me! Even if today you visit that place alone, you would surely be afraid.

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