AN AUGUST FREEDOM
Had it not been for a pair of captive white mice dangling in a cage meant for pet birds, two Golden jackal pups may never have savoured an August freedom. Events so transpired that wildlife conservationist Nitan Singh was engaged in clearing irrigation drains near Kathgarh on the Ropar-Nawanshahr highway with JCB machines and tractors. During a rest, his men wandered to a garments stall situated in Tandoh Jandi village. Nitan joined them and his curiosity was aroused by the mice. When he went to have a closer look, his eyes fell upon two jackal pups held captive in a room amid the filth of their faeces. He also saw a gun in the main house.
Nitan confronted the owner of the stall, Gurbinder Singh, who is also a dog breeder. Gurbinder spun an incredulous story that the jackals had got stuck in a rivulet’s monsoon mud and he had rescued them. This is not believable as jackal pups are nimble-footed and not heavy. Nitan slept that night near the jackals to ensure these were not whisked away. He alerted Punjab State Wildlife Advisory Board member Nikhil Sanger and the forest department’s guard. Next morning, Gurbinder was asked to submit a written statement on the circumstances surrounding the pups’ capture. These were then freed in the rivulet’s bushes, and they bounded away to a renewed, if uncertain, tryst with independence.FREEDOM’S DOOMED FLIGHT
Despite good intentions, this little Red-vented bulbul’s halting flights ended in a tryst with doom. MBA student Zaib H Shaikh had gone to the Chandigarh airport to pick up her father, Iqbal H Shaikh. At the airport car park, a fledgling bulbul was on the verge of being run over when Iqbal noticed it and nudged it to safety with his shoe. The bulbul promptly hopped onto his luggage trolley! Fearing for the bird’s life in the car chaos, and equally bowled over by its ‘cuteness’, the Shaikhs decided to take it to their Panchkula home. During the journey, the little fellow hopped and flew in the car and indulged in such antics as a delicate perch on the steering wheel!
“Once home, the little one found the best places possible to sit on: my grandmother’s walking stick, a pillow with a printed bird on it, all the while twittering gleefully in a high-pitched yet sweet sound. However, it did not have water or grains or ants I caught for it. Alas, its sweet twitter ended when it flew into a rotating ceiling fan that had just been switched off,” recounts Zaib.
In the wilderness, fledglings are fed insects rich in proteins. Zaib had tried to release the bulbul in her garden but it refused to fly away. The outcome for fledglings rescued by unskilled humans is often tragic. They don’t eat or get too dependent on humans or die an unnatural death.
DENTISTRY, IN COLD BLOOD
Worshippers at Nag Panchami last week may have been seeking attainment of personal wishes, such as longevity, health, money and family or ironically enough, the birth of a ‘favourable’ new life in their home. Live snakes caught for this purpose and fed milk on the auspicious day are rarely the subject of reciprocal good wishes. For that matter, devotees rarely plead with the snake gods to further any issue of public interest! What happens to the snakes after the self-serving worship and how they came to drink milk is again not a matter of concern or inquiry for this pious, blinded lot held tightly in the coils of superstition.
Charmers prepare snakes for Nag Panchami by cutting or yanking out their fangs and venom sacs, and then stitching their mouths shut. The wounds fester unattended inside the creature’s mouth. The snake is kept hungry for days. When milk is offered on the auspicious day, the thirsty creature gulps it down. But fact is, in such a deprived state the thirsty snake would drink Chivas Regal whisky or even the charmer’s urine!
It results in vomiting because milk leads to indigestion as it is not the natural diet of a snake, which is carnivorous and a non-mammal.
Devotees spray powders such as kumkum and haldi, which block the snake’s nostrils and eyes and lead to death. What is most painful is the pus/infection/bacteria building up in the snake’s mouth due to “desi” dentistry. After the festival, the snake is discarded. Death is inevitable. No priests are available to conduct the final rites of the snakes’ passage to heaven or hell or... the garbage heap behind the shrine?