Most ladies would doubtless jump onto the nearest sofa or bed were they to hear a snake had been spotted 500 yards away, and SOS for the fire brigade, the cops, etc etc! But Bangalore-based Indie author, Raja Rajeshwari Nagasigamani, transcended her fear of serpents when she moved to a suburban locality that was crawling with them and penned a remarkable, respectful ode to these creatures. Let us read her poem, 'Snake by the Lake':
CAPTION: Reptile rescue volunteer, Adrian Slade, dares a King cobra. Bali Reptile Rescue photo
On a warm and windy summer day,
I caught a movement on the way,
A shimmer and a glare,
It made me stop, stand and stare,
To my delight it was a plump and glossy snake,
Real...and not some rubbery fake,
It was slithering by the cool, inviting lake,
I held my breath as I fumbled with my bag,
I absolutely had to click a snap without any lag,
Out dropped the contents...comb, phone and all,
I steadied myself, glad I did not fall,
The snake turned and looked me in the eye,
I let my breath out feeling rather high,
In clumsy haste I managed to switch on my camera,
My mind conjured up a mini-orchestra,
'Photo of a magnificent snake...la la la'
Yet I shivered as I wiped the fuzz off my modest lens,
I focused, marveling at these woods so dense,
For a while...not an inch had the snake moved,
But now it rapidly tapped its tail and loudly hissed,
'Impatient reptile',...fondly thought I,
Finally, I clicked away with a happy sigh,
Jubilant in my heart and soul,
At the wild new addition to my photo roll,
The snake ready to leave, swayed its hood,
I waved back feeling so very good,
Then off it went fluttering like a flag in the breeze,
I resumed my walk filled with calm and peace...
On golden pond
Just as Franz Kafka once said that a good book should serve as an axe to break the frozen sea inside us, the warming rays of the sun in spring slice up the cold countryside into a mosaic, an effervescence of colour. Sun rays melt into golden ponds of mustard fields.
That zesty, yet poignant Bollywood backdrop, mustard relieves the oceans of green wheat fields outside the tricity and is bejewelled with female farm workers in colourful dresses as also a merry medley of birds coming into breeding plumages. The most spectacular are Ring-necked parakeets while smaller birds such as stonechats, bushchats, bulbuls, warblers, prinias etc also dangle from its delicate stems that stir with the joyous breeze of chill on the downhill. Bees in mustard are as if tiny fish ---darting, flitting in the sparkle of sun-kissed waters.
There was once a time when blood drops would smear those yellow blooms. Old sportsmen will recall that mustard plots were "killing fields" when hunting grey and black partridges (francolins).
Knowing the partridge's partiality for mustard, sportsmen with shotguns would walk through a field and flush coveys of scurrying birds. Since the vision of fire for the sportsman was clear in the low mustard fields, and the partridge did not have time to gain height and speed, the best percentages for birds dropped against cartridges expended were secured from such fields. CAPTION: The migratory Siberian stonechat in a mustard field. Debanshu Mukherjee photo
Butchery by crackpots
Some decades back, a clay pigeon shooter, who was also then a leading light of the Patiala Kakaji quartet, was busy busting targets at the Patiala ki Rao ranges, Chandigarh. Out of the flanking 'sarkanda' flew a black partridge.
Unable to resist, the shooter diverted his fire and nailed the partridge dead in an explosion of feathers in mid-air that drifted down much after the bird's body perforated with pellets had landed with a soft thud.
But he was taken to task on the spot by a senior civil services officer, who asked: "What the hell are you trying to prove?"
Indeed, the recent arrest of national rifle-shooter, Saad Khan, near Bhopal for poaching a Black buck and a peacock highlights misuse of subsidised, imported competition arms for poaching.
In January 2012, there was an expose of skeet shooter, Mairaj Khan, poaching Hog deer near Bulandshahr (UP), and inviting foreign nationals for illegal hunts. In 2007, trap shooter Manavjit Sandhu, was in the dock after the CBI unearthed hunting photographs and undeclared wildlife trophies from his Chandigarh home.
A group of performing and retired crackshots with roots in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi indulged in mindless poaching. One shoot near Charkhi Dadri (Haryana) saw 330 partridges killed in two days. Such was their expertise that a lady witness recalled the "boredom of watching everything that went up come down!"
Such massacres end up wiping out wildlife from the area and lend a bad name to the sport.