CHHOTI SI AASHAA spot of good news for tricity birders is the discovery of a pair of nesting Ashy woodswallows from Morni hills, photographed by Chandigarh-based DRDO scientist Rajive Das on May 3 near the forest ranger's residence. "The swallows were building their nest on a mobile antenna tower. They would come down from the tower, pick up nesting materials and again go up. Mostly they were targeting vines of a particular tree for material," said Das.
The significance lies in the fact that it is the first nesting record for this species in north India. Prior to this, the swallow was seen a few times as an isolated bird in north India, but never as a nesting pair. It is a species recognised as a resident of east, south-east and southern India.
Das' find takes the overall species' checklist for radials of 50km from Chandigarh to 415. However, Das is not sure whether the swallows migrated to Morni recently to find a new home or were there since long but had escaped the scanner of keen, weekend birders.
WAQT WAQT KI BAAT
The values and ethics governing society are often determined by the time and era. Film stars/thespians and Jodhpur seem to have a long linkage through shikar. Had Salman Khan starred in a period far gone by, he would not have had to strenuously deny the black buck poaching case of 1998. Instead, like late Shammi Kapoor, he could have written about his 'exploits' on and off the field in his memoirs and crooned from the moon-swept ramparts of Mehrangarh fort, which takes us to just before Independence, and the catalytic role the Jodhpur maharani had in shaping the teenaged Shammi as the keenest of shikaris Bollywood fostered. Shammi shot three tigers in his adult life, and pierced many a damsel's heart with a quiver full of Cupid's arrows!In Shammi's memoirs, and Madhu Jain's book, Kapoors: The First Family of Indian Cinema, it is apparent he was hypnotised by the aura of royalty while touring Jodhpur for Prithvi Theatres’ play, ‘Deewar’, in 1946. Aged 14-15, Shammi recounts peeping from behind the curtains to see his austere father, Prithviraj, tick off the Maharaja's offer for a round of scotch during the play's interval. The gracious Maharaja had quietly retreated to his seat, his lips left somewhat dry and mostly unstirred!
In Shammi's own words: "The royal road to hunting I discovered in Jodhpur's jungles. I was instructed in shikar by Col Mohan Sinhji and his nephews, Capt Kishen Sinhji and Capt Devi Sinhji, two famous polo players. On one of many shoots with them, I bagged my first partridge. I was so thrilled that I threw the .20 bore double-barrel gun (with which) I shot the bird and ran to pick it up. When I returned with the dead partridge, I got the firing of my life from them. The principal law of the jungle: the gun takes top billing."
"I was introduced to Robin, the youngest in the royal family, by his mother, Her Highness. He was my age, maybe younger, but atrociously arrogant. I went out to many a dry lunch shoot with him going after black buck/duck on a specially-designed Rolls Royce for shikar. Cold cuts varying from duck, turkey and pheasant to deer and wild boar meat. Blue Riband Murree Beer. This was dangerous exposure for me. I was getting used to this luxurious environment, something quite alien (back home) at 512 A, College Road, Matunga, Bombay," wrote Shammi.
His cow creamy, cherubic Kapoor looks worked as a royal charm! "Never in my 14 years of search for the ultimate has my semi-youthful arena been flooded with such beautiful girls. Real, pretty, classy, schoolkids on vacation. Maharaja's brother, Prince Ajit Sinhji's daughters; Col Mohan Sinhji's daughters. Wow. Blue blood stock. It was amazing the way they fell in love with me. All, seven or eight of them. I promised marriage to all of them one time or another. But love them I did not. I was smitten by the most beautiful woman I ever saw, the lady in question, Her Royal Highness, Maharani of Jodhpur. On our departure, she specially asked for me to be sent to Umaid Palace to lunch with her and Robin in the Zenana. I have yet to see and feel the ecstasy of a lady so refined, so poised and definite in what she wanted to convey. After the delicious Rajasthani thali of lunch that Robin and I shared, she presented me with a Gurkha Khukri and a BSA air-gun as a memento. For them it was a mere ritual, but for me it was a moment most cherished,” wrote Shammi.
The fine weaponry that Shammi acquired during his lifetime included a .32 bore Webley and Scott revolver, .12 bore double-barrel gun by S Wright and Sons, .375 magnum rifle by Holland and Holland, .450/400 double-barrel rifle by James Purdey and Sons, .370 rifle by Strech and Co, .22 Hornet rifle and a .32 Walther PPK pistol. Hunting trophies stared down from the walls of his lifelong home at 'Blue Haven Society', Malabar Hill, Mumbai.
Not to forget jeeps! "I bought my first Jeep in 1956 and called it 'Dinky'. Why? I forget. But the next one I named 'Yahoo' after I used this expression in my first superhit film, 'Tumsa Nahin Dekha'," wrote Shammi.