November 27, 2003
It’s killed 11 Mumbai residents swiftly and silently in 23 attacks this year. Awed, but not shocked, some of Mumbai’s best student brains are now making a mascot of the suburban panther.
Inspired by countless leopard sightings and nine successful traps of the wild cat at the Powai campus, students of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have chosen the drolly named ‘‘Clawz’’ to be the face of Mood Indigo, their popular festival. A rendering of ‘‘Clawz’’ was done on the institute’s high-end computers, and gleeful students are busy making posters and generally fooling around with their new mascot.
‘‘Clawz’’ is certainly grander than the 2001 mascot — there wasn’t one last year — a little-known bird unimaginatively called ‘‘Tweety’’ the sparrow.
‘‘We consider ourselves lucky to be so close to wilderness that leopards actually pay a visit to our hostels at night,’’ said civil engineering student Ati Nikhil Kumar, overall coordinator of Mood-I, as the festival is popularly called.
The IIT is near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and leopards sneak in via a storm water drain that pierces the periphery of the lush campus.
There are warning signs not to wander around after dark at a hostel adjoining the cat’s route. IITians have learned to live with the leopard.
Appropriately, there will be a spot-the-leopard contest during Mood-I. Anyone who manages to capture a real cat on camera will get a special prize.
Isn’t anyone afraid?
‘‘Nah! They (leopards) are beautiful animals and they only come here to eat dogs,’’ reasons Mansi Jain, student of engineering physics and coordinator in charge of corporate sponsorship for Mood-I.
But why does ‘‘Clawz’’ appear without spots in the posters? ‘‘We think Clawz will slowly earn his spots as Mood-I gets underway,’’ grins Ram Kakkad, another organiser.
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