Wildbuzz: Home they brought the flowers for the dead
Fathers of our Kargil War heroes have made pilgrimages to the high battlefields where their sons laid down their lives. Some walked up, took a pony ride, others took a vehicle to those sites where the Indian Army fought an exemplar of high-altitude warfare in the summer of 1999. They brought back memories from those pilgrimage points, where their sons had died.
On June 29, 1999, Capt Vijayant Thapar ‘Robin’, Vir Chakra, of the 2 Rajputana Rifles was shot through the head by a Pakistani sniper at Knoll in the Drass sector. A few days later, in the Batalik sector on July 1, 1999, Capt. Keishing Clifford Nongrum, Maha Vir Chakra, of the 12 JAK Light Infantry died fighting during the assault on Point 4812. Their fathers, Col VN Thapar (retd), and Keishing Peter, erected petite memorials at those heights. A Vijayant Memorial Mandir stands at Knoll while a Memory Cross was installed at Point 4812 for Capt Nongrum by their loving parents.
Col Thapar brought back wildflowers of the high mountains that had magically flourished around the temple and bloomed in the dried blood that had merged into the alpine soil. He pasted them in Vijayant’s Baby Book and wrote the poignant words: “These were flowers which were growing at Robin’s temple up at Knoll. Brought when I went there in September ’03. It was a bit of a miracle because at that place not a blade of grass grows. Also, in that place were a family of four chicks of Ram Chakore. Life grows around Robin.”
Born in Naya Nangal, Punjab, Robin had studied at Chandigarh’s DAV College while staying with his maternal grandmother in Sector 21. Col Thapar and Neha Dwivedi have recently authored a book on Robin, Vijayant at Kargil: The Biography of a War Hero.
Keishing, who is based in Shillong, Meghalaya, made the journey to Point 4812 after the War and he set up that Memory Cross with a bouquet of flowers and candles. “On that lonely hill, the eternal flame in honour of our son shall ever flicker, his memories bloom in our hearts forever like those flowers at the Memory Cross,” Keishing told this writer.
Baya weaver nests have gripped our imagination and spurred a popular interest in bird life. But the Baya is only one of the four weaver bird species found in India. Of the other three, the Finn’s weaver may be headed for extinction. According to the Bombay Natural History Society, there may be less than 500 adult birds of this species left in India. The Finn’s weaver is a bird of grasslands, especially of the Terai region, and the conquest of these habitats by the “Development JCB” has left these birds without homes to bring up their little ones in lamp post-like nests. Associated with this threat was the menace of illegally trapping the Finn’s weaver for the grey market to serve as a cage bird.
The nest of the Finn’s weaver is different from that of the other three weaver species. The rarity of this bird is underscored by the fact that expeditions were launched since 1934 to trace this bird. It was first brought to light as a species by the celebrated ornithologist AO Hume in 1866, who, struck by the bird’s huge bill, named it Ploceus megarhynchus. That stands till today as the zoological nomenclature for the Finn’s weaver.
In contemporary times, ornithologists and researchers were trying very hard to trace a breeding colony of this bird to set up a captive breeding project on the lines of those initiated for vultures and the Great Indian Bustard. Efforts did not make much headway till last week when renowned birder and photographer, Rajesh Panwar, discovered a breeding colony of the Finn’s weaver at the Haripora-Baur reservoir near Kaladhungi in Uttarakhand. The discovery has thrilled researchers and conservationists. The nesting colony was on the water reeds of the Ipomoea plant, a substantive find.
For Panwar, it marked the culmination of a six-year search for a breeding colony of the Finn’s weaver. He has also other feathers in his cap. Panwar is credited with the first photographic record from India of the migratory Red-breasted goose and a contested first Indian record of the “Japanese Paradise flycatcher”.