The loveliest of the migratory birds that grace the Sukhna Lake are red-crested pochards, whose flocks aptly earn such descriptions as an ‘avian ruby necklace’ or a ‘crown of jewels’ gracing a wetland. The pochard, which has frequented Sukhna in small numbers in the last 16 years, has landed in a record number of 107 this winter, with the bulk of the count (81) from the no-disturbance zone at the regulator-end’s canal and 26 from the lake’s main body.
Shallow water and weeds seem to have not only induced the pochards to stick to the Sukhna this winter but the birds are less shy. Last winter, the high number counted was 84 but that flock flew away from the Sukhna within a couple of days, leaving a sub-group behind.
Ever since 2000, when this writer has maintained a count of wintering pochards at Sukhna, 107 is the highest. The number recorded in the 2003-04 winter was 16 while in some winters, less than 10 pochards have been counted.
The pochard is a favoured muse of naturalists, though the paradox that such birds present is that one has to compare handsome avian males with beautiful women! The drake is dead-drop gorgeous, turning admiring necks of bird lovers and attracting long lenses like flies to jaggery. The male conjures visions of a Russian beauty with her locks slicked back softly, attired in a black turtle-neck cardigan and white slacks. To complete the drake’s couture, add brown knee-length boots and a beak sensuously dashed in rose-pink lipstick! What better way to describe the drake’s fuzzy, erectile crown than evoke the colour auburn, that smoulders like autumn leaves turning to the colour of her hair. The female is a vivid contrast of drab, sooty-brown feathers but not without a few graces: white cheeks and a black bill tipped with a ‘bindi’ of pink!
The pochards are best observed in the canal, up-ending and dabbling in shallow water. If you stand in solitude and cup your ears in their direction, the gentle gurgle of waters stirred by feeding pochards drifts to you in a confiding bond. The mind takes flight to memories of a merry mountain brook that sighs in relief as gradients lessen in thaw’s passage to the plains.
CYCLE TO THE MOON
As the city beautiful gets increasingly embroiled in the emission of vehicular flatulence dooming humans and nature, artist Shubhra dispatches an eloquent message for 2017. More and more people, says the Delhi-based Shubhra, should adopt the bicycle as a means of commuting or just for a joyride as it is “eco-friendly, purse-free and healthy’’. Her painting, ‘Cycle’, was on display at the national art exhibition, Kaladhara, at the Kalagram, till Saturday. The painting’s vivid colours are a breath of fresh air for viewers inhabiting cities which are turning grey and noxious. ‘Cycle’ invites comparison to costumes and turbans draped in the richness of gold/crimson/blue and donned by the folk of Gujarat and Rajasthan. They flaunt the colours to ward off the assault on their souls by arid, monotonous landscapes. ‘’When I ride a bicycle, I feel like I am flying in a helicopter, like a bird among the clouds,’’ Shubhra told this writer.
Her other painting that startles is ‘Beauty of Night’ and that too is a yearning, a metaphor for degenerating cities. This is so because an inferno of city lights eclipses the stars, the wink of fireflies and deposes night, the queen of darkness. Shubhra explores in her choice of colours and the meander of her brush the tree’s acquisition of a different hue and life in the tender light of night. The painting’s main focus, though, is celebration of the female form, as the man in the lower half gazes upon the moon and contemplates a comparison to his companion above.
The woman’s eyeball wanders boldly in the curving space created by the fusion of two moon crescents. Her eye lifts to meet the moon’s gaze as night liberates her from the lowered status of day and the shadows cast by fluttering eyelashes. Is it the moon that we see --- that celestial orb, that sliver of silver, that dimple in the Creator’s cheek, that nailmark on the breast of the cosmos; whose vanity eclipses the light of a billion stars, those cosmic courtiers in distant attendance? Or is it the woman’s fingernail held to the heavens that we see --- finessed by manicure, long and curved, like a waning moon’s crescent?