Last week in these columns, I had dusted the shikar and jungle memories of the late Shammi Kapoor.
Film buffs may like to know that the late Guru Dutt, too, harboured a passion for forests and shikar. Dutt also maintained a private mini-zoo housing monkeys to tiger cubs. Dutt's shikar buddie was the late comedian, Johnny Walker, who was a fine rifle shot.
Walker lured Dutt into hunting, got him to buy a rifle and was responsible for Dutt abandoning his family's vegetarian ethics! Walker was a hunter of tigers, leopards and deer, and Dutt would spend days with him indulging in shikar and fishing at night from Walker's machhan at Powai lake (Mumbai).
Bollywood superstar Dilip Kumar recounts that Walker would disappear for days in the jungles and come back with a bagful of 'gup-shup' of dangerous encounters and how many tigers he had shot! On one such trip when Walker and his friends were waiting for the tiger, the king turned the tables by coming from behind and surprising the hunters. Needless to say, there was panic and the 'brave heroes' took to their heels in all directions. Photo caption: Shammi Kapoor on a hunting trip. Photo: Junglee.org.in
Dilip was by nature soft-hearted and did not enjoy killing animals. However, Walker managed to persuade Dilip when he was filming for 'Naya Daur' and took him for a deer hunt at night. After the hunters wounded a deer, Dilip was asked to shoot the deer dead. However, the dying deer looked up at Dilip with such piteous eyes as if it were his loyal fan pleading for pardon. The deer died but its haunting eyes would never escape Dilip's memory.
THE SALT TREATY
Can you imagine a spectacle where five wild animal species with kids can be seen together at night? This is what happened when Mohini Roy, her sister and brother-in-law, Prabal Bera, ventured to the Hollong salt lick in Jaldapara National Park, West Bengal, at 9pm. In the accompanying picture marked with numbers (1-5), there is a gaur or Indian bison female with a calf at No. 1, an Asiatic elephant and calf at No. 2, an Indian rhino with calf at No. 3, Sambar with fawn at No. 4, and a wild boar with piglet at No.5, though the sambars and boars are not easily visible.
Photo: Prabal Bera
A salt lick is a spot where animals, especially herbivores, come to make up deficiencies of mineral nutrients in their diet. According to Roy, every afternoon young boys contracted by the Forest department create a heap of salt with honey and sugarcane, and dig the soil and mix it up with the salt. The Hollong lick has been operational for 50 years. Licks are used not only to assist animal nutrition but also create spots for wildlife viewing, and in the West for hunting by luring animals. Roy recollects that on one memorable occasion, she saw 167 elephants at 3am at Hollong lick.
WISH FOR FISH DISH
Sport anglers at the Sukhna Lake are up in arms against the decision of the UT administration to close fishing for the breeding season. The anglers led by Robin Paulus feel that this closure should have been delayed till May 31.
Photo: Rajan Kumar
However, the Administration's technical advisor, Prof MS Johal, contends that though monsoons are the trigger for breeding, the fish are already carrying eggs. Since the bulk of the fish are females and these become inactive and easy to catch while carrying eggs, any angling would deplete the capacity for breeding, says Prof Johal, who has also appealed to anglers to help scientific studies by reporting their catch to the department during the open season.
The fishing season is expected to re-open in August. The closure of angling must also be viewed in the context of the ongoing debate within the administration on even allowing this sport with home secretary Anil Kumar not in favour as commercial fishermen and poachers with nets exploit open season.
However, Prof Johal's view in favour of sport angling had prevailed as he contended that some part of the fisheries stock must be harvested for overall benefit. Tailpiece: The accompanying photograph shows a 'Bam' or fresh-water eel caught at the lake.
This eel has to be handled carefully as it can inflict injuries. It is reckoned as a "delicious" fish by anglers and can attain the size of a metre. Its movements are serpentine and it superficially resembles a snake. The eel's habitat is crevices in big stones lying in the water bed.