Pati, patni aur woh
Wandering off the beaten tracks of goats and sambars, I clambered aboard the Shiwalik cliffs overlooking Gurra village and chanced upon a triangle of ring-necked parakeets, the legendary lovers celebrated in the Kamasutra. This trio on a Kikar tree was startled to see me as few creatures venture here. Only the silent cosmos had been stock witness to their indulgences. But they soon shrugged off my presence, as more serious matters were evidently at hand. The then British High Commissioner (1955-60) Malcolm MacDonald had been so bewitched by a winged Laila-Majnu that he penned 16 pages of delectable prose in his essay, 'Green parakeets in a Delhi Garden'.
As I watched, it was not difficult to recall MacDonald's words, who had stated that the pair made love daily, several times a day, for seven weeks at a go! Reminded me also of Banta Singh's memorable confession when directed to fill his passport's 'Sex' column! Right from the early days of clumsy love-making, which provoked some sharp pecks from the irritated female, to the weeks when coupling lasted several blissful minutes, MacDonald's paean to parakeet love lends wings to human imagination. "The cock parakeet was very much in love with her. He spent a lot of time in slavish attendance on her," wrote MacDonald. But there was a lesson in fidelity in what I saw. When the other male, who had been left gaping at the throes of passion, attempted his turn to woo the female as she cooled down, it was not her beatific beau who stirred. It was the female who pecked at the suitor till he retreated in a luckless huff back to the spectator's perch! CAPTION: Parakeets mating. Niraj V Mistry photo
Taare zameen par
On Wednesday night, I landed up at the 'machaan' of farmer, Amarnath, of Kasauli village, 20km from Chandigarh. It lies cheek by jowl along the jungles of the Shiwaliks. I was determined to catch a glimpse of the magnificent sambars that invade his fields. We sat silently, gazed at the celestial chandeliers, and nursed Scotch whisky that I had brought along to tide over the chill. Amarnath assured us that his ferocious dog, Kaloo, would alert us to the arrival of the antlered infiltrators. We sat for hours but nothing came. Amarnath's neighbour, Gurdial Singh, joined us. After a few pegs down his throat, Gurdial opened up and offered to take us deep into the jungle. Amarnath was by this time too sozzled to accompany us "crazy wildlife lovers", and snuggling deep into his quilt, promptly lapsed into snoring liberally interspersed with unrestrained flatulence. Perhaps, the sambars were waiting for those sounds of silence! Gurdial confirmed this: "Animals come only after the zamindars fall asleep!" Anyways, we walked into the heart of the jungle's darkness, the path remarkably lit by stars on a moonless night. But animals were wary and we saw nothing. As we drove away in disappointment, there, on the road, stood two sambars, eyes shining like 'diyas'. Mission accomplished! Animal eyes reflect light when a beam hits them, and is termed "catch light". Reflection is greenish in herbivores, reddish in big cats/elephants but dim in wild boars/monkeys.CAPTION: Sambars entering fields at night. Vikram Jit Singh photo
Gul aur kaante
Private possession of wild animal trophies has always excited controversy. The government enabled people to obtain certificates of ownership for trophies under the 'Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003'. Punjab alone had declared 25 tiger and 43 leopard skins. But critics argued that since no hard questions and proofs had been demanded, it was easy for some to pass off trophies of poached animals as "inheritance" and get a legal stamp. What is more vexatious is when VIPs flaunt such animal trophies, and it turns out they do not even possess an ownership certificate. Recently, Kunwarani Devyani Singh (see photo), the wife of Kunwar Pranav Singh (MLA from Uttarakhand assembly), enraged conservationists by going to the assembly in Dehradun in a leopard skin coat, also known as 'guldaar' due to its rosette-like markings. The Kunwarani was initially the cynosure of all eyes and attracted numerous likes and florid compliments on Facebook due to her 'glitzy glam'coat. But a dogged Gauri Maulekhi of the PFA proved a thorn in their side. She hounded the Kunwars of Landhora Riyasat and ensured the matter reached the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, which ordered a probe. PHOTO CAPTION: Gauri Maulekhi