Wildbuzz | The elephant dream and bird’s food bowl | punjab$regional-takes | Hindustan Times
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Wildbuzz | The elephant dream and bird’s food bowl

Inspired by Ustaad Mansur, the legendary 17th century painter of flora and fauna patronised by Emperor Jehangir, Asha Prakash was content to paint miniatures of birds in the Mughal style. Ustaad Mansur is credited with the earliest painting of the Siberian crane, once a regular migrant to India but last seen in 2001 and is currently a critically-endangered species.

punjab Updated: Apr 16, 2017 12:01 IST
The paintings titled, ‘Dream of a New Dawn’, ‘Milan’ and ‘Maya Devi ka Sapna’.
The paintings titled, ‘Dream of a New Dawn’, ‘Milan’ and ‘Maya Devi ka Sapna’.(PHOTOS: ASHA PRAKASH)

THE ELEPHANT DREAM

Inspired by Ustaad Mansur, the legendary 17th century painter of flora and fauna patronised by Emperor Jehangir, Asha Prakash was content to paint miniatures of birds in the Mughal style. Ustaad Mansur is credited with the earliest painting of the Siberian crane, once a regular migrant to India but last seen in 2001 and is currently a critically-endangered species. Flowers, too, were the passionate subjects of Prakash’s brush till one night she dreamt vividly of golden elephants bathed in a light so soft as if streaming from a new dawn. She dreamt repeatedly of elephants, those giants of immense strength but gentle, intelligent and noble in their bearing. Though she had seen elephants at zoos and fairs, she had never thought of painting them till those dreams laid siege to her artistic soul and metamorphosed into a magnificent muse. This resulted in a trio of elephant dream paintings, one of which is currently on display at the Punjab Kala Bhavan, Sector 16, as part of ‘Anubhuti’, an exhibition of Varanasi artists.

Prakash is an Art teacher at the Durga Charan Girls Inter College, Varanasi. In her art is reflected a lament over dwindling trees/greenery. ‘’People construct houses and cut trees to make way. But trees are homes for birds and butterflies. Elephants and other wild species are poached. Will all this natural wealth reduce to a mere dream for future generations, will animals and birds find beautiful spaces only in paintings?’’ asks Prakash.

BIRDS’ FOOD BOWL

Birds in wheat fields. (PHOTOS: TARUN SUHAG (1-2) / CHANDAN BHARDWAJ (3))

The festival of Baisakhi heralds for humans the joys of wheat harvest. Peasants scythe sheaves of ripe grain and the countryside blazes in manifold shades of gold and green. But the festival signals a closure of the insect restaurant for birds. Wheat stubble will be burnt by a section of farmers and insects will perish in the grimy, smoky holocaust. Birds lose their favoured haunts of spring and early summer as wheat fields reduce to charred remains or tired acreages run over by wheat stubble that await new sowing.

Insects are key prey for many species of birds who perch delicately on swaying wheat or flit among the stalks like Krishna’s beauteous gopis. Some birds also nibble at grains, much to the displeasure of farmers eyeing a full harvest. But bird-watchers can spend mesmerising hours wandering through wheat fields and observing an array of petite birds, some of which are on passage migration to higher altitudes.

MONGOOSE OBIT

The mongoose run over by a vehicle outside Butterfly Park. (Photo: VIKRAM JIT SINGH)

Many a dog, squirrel and human suffer road kills but on Monday last I came across a rarity: a Grey mongoose run over by a vehicle outside Butterfly Park in Sector 26, Chandigarh. It was hard to imagine that a creature so agile and wily had suffered such a stupid fate but the hit-and-run case was testimony to the oft-herd lament of walking, talking two-legged creatures: Chandigarh will soon be crawling with cars like Delhi! The mongoose is Chandigarh’s State Animal but there were no wreath-laying ceremonies at the site of the mongoose’s martyrdom by officials and politicians.The mongoose is the State Animal precisely because the creature’s erstwhile State has been usurped by ‘’civilising’’ humans!

Only pale leaves drifting in summer’s fall and not cleared by the municipality from the roadside seemed to pay tribute as they shuffled past the dead mongoose, some for a few minutes shrouding the ‘State Animal’ till the wind took them away like mourners drifting home amid a silence brimming with memories. Maggots and carrion flies buzzed, eager to devour rotting mongoose flesh like tireless, unpaid, unsung workers of ‘Swachh Bharat’.

On the other hand, an interesting aspect of mongoose feeding behaviour came to the fore on Tuesday when a drunkard’s body was found eaten in soft parts such as eyes by these creatures at Railway Station. The mongoose is a classic survivor and eats from every possible place, including dustbins, poultry sheds and carrion, and spells devastation for rodents and snakes. Alas, only if mongooses possessed human ingenuity and learnt to evade screeching BMW tyres and the human intrusion into every niche of nature.

(vjswild1@gmail.com)