Wildbuzz | The myna that fled Kabul

It emerges from Chatel’s narrative that Alia arrived at the Al Dhafra air base in the UAE. Alia had fled Kabul exhausted, with an unusual possession: a bird.
Alia’s myna escaped from Kabul in a cardboard box to reach the UAE safely. (PHOTO: XAVIER CHATEL)
Alia’s myna escaped from Kabul in a cardboard box to reach the UAE safely. (PHOTO: XAVIER CHATEL)
Updated on Oct 17, 2021 01:59 AM IST
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ByVikram Jit Singh

Horrific images of Afghans clinging to the wheels and falling of evacuation aircrafts onto Kabul rooftops defined global perceptions of the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in August. But a tale of a unique escape has emerged several weeks later and it serves as a small but heart-warming counterpoint to the evacuation tragedy. The revelation came this month from no less an entity than the French Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Xavier Chatel, and he had kept this little story locked up in his kind heart all these weeks. Chatel took to Twitter and his recount of the great escape of a Common myna and her Afghan refugee owner, Alia, found global resonance.

It emerges from Chatel’s narrative that Alia arrived at the Al Dhafra air base in the UAE. Alia had fled Kabul exhausted, with an unusual possession: a bird. “She had fought all the way at Kabul airport to bring the treasured little thing with her. For sanitary reasons, the bird could not embark on the plane from Al Dhafra air base to Paris. She cried silently. I was moved. I promised to take care of the bird at (my) residence, feed him. She could visit him anytime and take him back. I won’t forget her look of desperate gratefulness,” tweeted Chatel.

Chatel took Alia’s myna under his wing, accorded the myna diplomatic treatment and the bird currently occupies pride of place at the Ambassador’s residence in Abu Dhabi. The myna has learnt to mimic the French word, Bonjour, but after inflicting a series of petulant pecks on the good Chatel and peppering his gleaming car with nervous poop! Alia, who is safely in Paris, managed to trace Chatel on Twitter, and was anxious to know the fate of her feathered sweetheart. Her separation from the myna turned into a symbol of fleeing Afghans torn apart from their homes, families, possessions and life itself.

“She was so happy to see her bird cared for. She wanted me to teach him French. Alia, your bird has become the embassy’s mascot, but he is here for you, and if I can, I’ll take him personally to you one day,” was Chatel’s promise to a grateful, reassured Alia on Twitter.

Alia’s myna escaped from Kabul in a cardboard box to reach the UAE safely. (PHOTO: XAVIER CHATEL)
Alia’s myna escaped from Kabul in a cardboard box to reach the UAE safely. (PHOTO: XAVIER CHATEL)

The jungle’s necklace

Nishant Prabhakar likes to label himself a “tree entrepreneur”. A resident of Panchkula’s Sector 7, Prabhakar’s family owns lands 2 km away from Morni town under the revenue jurisdiction of village Balig. He has innovatively planted trees of the Himalayan high-altitudes such as the Deodar, spruce, fir and oak in the Morni hills. When he is not attending to his beloved trees, Prabhakar is busy saving the snakes that wander into his homestay at village Balig. The local workers he employed killed a couple of the snakes before Prabhakar put an end to the needless killings. A firm believer in granting rights to exist to every living being, including plants, Prabhakar also saved a baby cobra that wandered under his bed and then climbed the curtains in sheer fright.

Last week, a veritable necklace of the Morni jungles, cast in gorgeous jade, strayed into the homestead. A local lady from Balig, who collects fodder from the jungles, spotted the venomous species, a Northern White-lipped pit viper (Haryal) draped in the thick foliage. She informed Prabhakar so that he could kill the viper and thus supposedly rid the homestay of “danger”. But to the surprise of the locals, and it set the long tongues wagging, the viper has stayed put in the homestay till now, safe under Prabhakar’s indulgent eye. A persistent Prabhakar strives to change the locals’ perception of wildlife, especially snakes, by taking calculated risks and leading from the front to conserve biodiversity.

vjswild1@gmail.com

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Sunday, November 28, 2021