On December 19, 2014, an avian-flu scare at the Sukhna put Chandigarh’s iconic lake out of bounds for public for the first time in its history. The death of a goose and the subsequent culling of its remaining clan forced the administration to sound a general alert, short of banning the sale of poultry in the city. However it did not stop the responsive media from discouraging the consumption of this high-protein diet.
My wife, a die-hard vegetarian, was upbeat and quick to show us the newspaper reports about the hazards of eating non-veg. Shruti, my daughter-in-law, and I, both meat lovers, pleaded that we’d be extra careful cooking chicken and all but it cut no ice with my better half. Committed to succeed in her dissuasion campaign, she’d put a variety of exquisite vegetarian dishes on the table, day after day, to force us to convert. She’d not rest until we declared her the brand ambassador of vegetarianism.
She was thrilled at her conquest until the local poultry traders deciding to throw a free feast to the city people to dispel their fear. Shruti and I decided to partake of the “chicken-and-egg langar”. Steadfast, my wife threw in the bait of a yummy continental meal (my favourite), alas vegetarian. “Sorry,” we said, and proceeded to our destination, a packed venue where everyone was jostling to grab a free non-veg meal, in utter disregard of the scare.
The event was a hit, though in the milieu, we could not have the taste of our favourite dish and had to sleep hungry that night. The news of this largesse, however, was all over the press. Bird flu was a thing of the past and poultry sales had shot back to normal. The traders had set an example of aggressive marketing. The administration stuck to its cautious approach but threw open the lake to public at last. Shruti and I were among the hundreds of visitors at the reopening ceremony.
The fog and the chill could not deter the chronic walkers. Chirp had returned to the Sukhna. The quacking of the geese, though, eluded the visitors. Some emotional patrons were heard saying within an earshot of the chief guest: “The Sukhna will not be the same without the geese. We should bring them back.” New to the environment, the gentleman feigned deaf ears with a typical bureaucratic fixed smile, until Shruti, motivated by the strategy of the chicken traders, suggested: “Uncle, no problem, I am sure the administration can make arrangements to play geese quacks as piped music to make us all feel at home.”