Is That a Grizzly in My Garden?


Is That a Grizzly in My Garden?

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré


t 6:00 am last Sunday, I was flooded with WhatsApp messages and Facebook updates which seemed like a collective attempt at an April Fools’ prank, albeit in July. Morning walkers and joggers on the main road around the Naini Lake claimed that they spotted a Himalayan black bear swimming in the water. Now if you know Nainital, you’ll know that our town is cupped in a valley around a beautiful lake in the Himalayas. The lake is literally in the middle of our town, and there is no way to get to it without crossing houses, hotels, and roads. Yet the messages kept pouring in. The whole town was abuzz with excitement. The enthusiastic admin of my local WhatsApp group even changed the group’s name to “Bhaloo!” I couldn’t quite believe it; it seemed absurd – too whimsy. The kind of stuff that happens in Emir Kusturica films.

At 6:30 am one of the domestic helps at my house, which is a good kilometre up the hill, told me that she had just seen a bear run across our garden. Now, this was unbelievable. The bear, my help said breathlessly, had run at great speed through the dahlias, into the neighbour’s yard, and in the direction of the oak forest, higher up the hill.