There is good news for those worried about the declining Golden Mahseer population at Bhakra dam's Gobind Sagar reservoir. Maj (retd) Sanjay Singh Dadhwal hooked a fine specimen of 20 pounds, just 500 metres away from the dam. The retired soldier, who was commissioned into the 3/5 Gorkha Rifles and now works for an MNC in Gurgaon, caught the mahseer with a US-made Shakespeare wild cat fishing rod. The size and health of the mahseer attracted praise from Prof MS Johal, a world-renowned fisheries expert at Panjab University, Chandigarh.Dadhwal, who was born in Ghandran, a village on the Beas river in Kangra, picked up angling from his uncle and followed it up by hooking fish on the Yamuna river, Delhi, and the Sukhna lake, Chandigarh, as a youngster. Mahseer is a game fish that affords a tremendous fight to the angler. After catching the mahseer, Dadhwal released it back into Bhakra's waters as his motive is to enjoy the thrills of angling. Even when he catches trout in mountain streams, he frees the wild fish, and purchases trout from a nearby farm for his table!
The salt march
Never despair! Whenever a repulsive caterpillar thinks its world is coming to an end, out comes a fluttering miracle, a prince charming. A butterfly, whose tryst with the seemingly ugly doesn't end here. Butterflies extract minerals, salts and nitrates from all kinds of weird sources, and transfer these to females during mating. Some butterflies do not suck nectar, they feed on rotting snakes. Others wait for a dewy morning, only to settle on the night soil of tigers and leopards. Even bird-droppings are welcome!
Common Nawab butterflies drink beer from unattended glasses for its sugar content, and even suck juices of dead crabs. Scientists in jungles host butterflies on their unwashed socks, as also on their poop and urine! I saw another amazing feeding station: Common Line Blue and Bright Babul Blue butterflies gleaning salts from the brick `chullah' of Palla Ram in the jungles of Nagal village behind PGIMER. Palla guards his maize fields from wild boars, and he needs many tea-breaks. But when he is not making tea, and when his mongrel, Jimmy, stops hounding butterflies, these delicate darlings dart in for a Gandhian salt march.
Phool se amar prem
Amarnath Yatra pilgrims are either so gripped by religious fervour or so tired snailing up the Himalayas that the breathtaking natural beauty escapes notice. Some do click photos of the eternal snows, merry brooks and solemn columns of fir trees. But wild flowers? Virtually nobody, except an odd candidate: Mumbai-based mechanical engineer Narendra Joshi, who deliberately timed his Yatra for the second half of August 2013 when the pilgrim rush lessens.Joshi has been clicking wild flowers around Mumbai for years, especially during monsoons when each droplet seems to magically metamorphose into an anonymous wild bloom. On the yatra, he took all sorts of pains to clamber the slopes and click photos of wild blooms. Other pilgrims felt Joshi had gone mad! But he persisted with his passion and clicked 500 photos of a 100 different blooms and is now getting each identified from botanists. This includes the gorgeous Aconitum (see photo), which his camera froze for posterity at 13,000 feet on the Sheshnag-Panjtarni route. He observed that flowers receded in occurrence beyond 12,000 feet. Joshi hopes his yatra photo odyssey will yield some new finds for books on wild flowers.
The butcher's bible
The Shikra shuns shallow sentiment when filling its stomach with bird babies. It has, after all, got its own chicks to feed. Since the Shikra's cradle snatching is on full view in gardens, it evokes muddled reactions. A female Shikra with glowing yellow eyes spotted a Red-vented Bulbul's nest in a grapevine draping our driveway. The fluffy fledgelings commenced short, sweet aerial sorties under mama bulbul's tutelage. The Shikra set up ambush in our garage and pounced on a fledgeling, spiriting it away to the papaya tree.
Our illiterate Bengali maid, Shampa's maternal instincts were roused and she shrieked and flailed her arms to thwart the Shikra. But the hunter was unmoved, and coldly tore the fledgeling. As if to further taunt Shampa, the Shikra flew and perched cockily on the laundry stand outside her room! I intervened, and asked Shampa: "Were I to snatch a `sandesh' (a Bengali sweet) from her mouth, would it not infuriate her?" Shampa burst into giggles with that vivid metaphor but realisation dawned on her: butchering these fledgelings is nature's law of balance, and a Shikra's privilege. But I do wonder if some of my fanatical animal rights activist friends harbour a secret utopia where Shikras would turn `vaishno' and gobble `gobi-aloo'.