• VIKRAM JIT SINGH, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Apr 26, 2014 23:17 IST

There is a `junglee' twist to the failed romance of the late Shammi Kapoor and socialite Bina Ramani, the plucky lady who many years later proved to be the doom for Manu Sharma in the Jessica Lal murder case. Shammi and Bina were engaged in a furious romance though there was familial opposition from both sides.

While releasing her recent autobiography, `Bird in the Banyan Tree', Ramani revealed that her main regret in life was that she did not marry Shammi, with whom she confesses she wanted to elope. He slipped from her life during one eventful week he was out with his buddies indulging in his supreme passion for hunting and the jungles. During that week, her parents quietly introduced her to Andy Ramani and the rest is history.

Shammi shot three tigers in his life. He was introduced to shikar by the Maharani of Jodhpur, when Prithvi Theatres was staging dramas there. The very young Shammi was presented with an airgun by the Maharani and he would accompany her sons in a Rolls Royce car for duck and Black buck shooting.

As he grew up, Shammi acquired English guns and rifles that were preferred by Indian princes, such as the .375 bore by Holland & Holland and a 450/400 double-barrel rifle by James Purdey & Sons. The first tiger Shammi shot was in 1958 in the Barasia forest block of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh along with Najma Heptullah's father. But Shammi never got to collect his first tiger trophy because the tiger after being hit, tumbled into a canyon. By the time Shammi was able to organise beaters to go down after it the next day, the vultures had left only the skeleton.


Shammi Kapoor with his tiger trophy (Photo: junglee.org.in)

The second tiger, measuring 10 feet three inches, was shot by Shammi in the company of comedian, Johnny Walker, and the third in the Terai forests bordering Nepal.

In his own words, hunting was not everything. He wrote in his memoir of those days: ``It is not only the big game in the jungles that lures you. It is the peaceful environment in its natural element, away from any civilization's aroma to it. I have spent a number of Christmas and New Year celebrations with my friends and family in the jungles.

There is no electricity in most of the Dak bungalows and the sky is full of stars you never get to see in the city. The winters are very cold so the campfire atmosphere is something you don't want to get away from. The local tribal scene blends beautifully with the local sounds or radio or tape music and potluck that is there for all to indulge in.

Sometimes, you just drive around in the forest for hours, looking at the different hues of color and shade among the trees and foliage along the streams running amok. There are days when you don't even use the gun to shoot with (except of course to bring something for the kitchen) and instead look through a camera. These are everlasting images embedded very deeply....''


Birds are abundant in the tricity region but exactly how many could they be? Well, the latest checklist of birds found in a radius of 50 km from Chandigarh puts it at 406 species. The tricity alone accounts for 296 species.


Eurasian curlews at Sukhna lake (Photo: Sarabjit Lehal)

Not only does the region possess many hospitable habitats for our feathered friends, including some fine wetlands, but it also lies in the route of birds migrating across nations as also those flitting from the mountains and hills to the plains as weather changes. The checklist compiled by the Avian Habitat and Wetland Conservation Society (AHWCS) has taken many years of work by a growing number of bird enthusiasts.

It is not as if more and more new birds are flocking to the region. It is just that there are more people armed with easily-available lenses, binoculars, bird guides etc and willing to roam the countryside. Bird-watching and correct identification has been greatly empowered by social media. While credit is due to the AHWCS for this exhaustive list, there have also been cases of high-handedness and the perception that birds spotted by the ruling clique in the AHWCS had a better chance of making it to the checklist.

Some birders complained that even though photographic evidence was cited for a bird spotting, it was ignored while a plain sighting of a bird without a photograph was readily accepted if it came from the ruling clique. Fortunately, the latest checklist has addressed some of these misgivings that had built up over the years, and assigned credit where it was rightfully due.

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