Wild buzz, from Nature’s domain of wonders: The strange charmer | punjab | regional takes | Hindustan Times
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Wild buzz, from Nature’s domain of wonders: The strange charmer

A hornbill lost its way and entered the University Business School (UBS) library at Panjab University (PU), provoking wise wits to declare that the strange fellow had come to study an even stranger species!

punjab Updated: May 27, 2018 11:49 IST
Wild buzz,nature’s domain,nature's wonders
Oriental Pied hornbill in Sector 9, Chandigarh.(Dalvinder Singh)

The Oriental Pied hornbill is a charming rarity of the City Beautiful. Those few who have chanced upon the bird are left with a lingering sense of wonder. Neelu Sarin was rendered speechless as the exotic-looking avian flew in from the blue, as if some apparition of the Amazonian rainforest, and perched in the balcony of a Sector 4 bungalow. Hindustan Times executive editor Ramesh Vinayak had a glimpse of the hornbill at the 15th hole while playing at the Chandigarh Golf Club (CGC). The bird’s long black tail and imposing yellow bill/casque left Vinayak wondering for weeks till this writer cleared the air on its identity. Another hornbill lost its way and entered the University Business School (UBS) library at Panjab University (PU), provoking wise wits to declare that the strange fellow had come to study an even stranger species!

The latest admirer is UT administrator VP Singh Badnore, who entered into a passionate discussion on hornbills with CGC president BS Gill ‘Gilly’ during a meeting at Raj Bhawan on Wednesday. “We were discussing my letter to the administrator, which I had begun with an ode to nature and mention of the state bird, the Indian Grey hornbill, flying between lofty trees at the club. As luck would have it, the administrator had a calendar on his desk with a picture of the Malabar Pied hornbill and he pointed to that in reference to my letter’s mention of hornbills. I was pleased to inform him that the similar-looking Oriental Pied hornbill is found in Chandigarh and breeding in PU. Badnore directed his staff to find an opportune time and place so that he could observe and photograph the hornbill,” Gill told this writer.

Badnore is keen to install a walk-in aviary at the Nagar Van (City Forest) on the lines of Chhatbir Zoo. The Nagar Van is one place where the hornbill is spotted regularly, including possibly a leucistic/albino specimen seen by the van’s staff. One or two hornbills are sighted at Sukhna Lake Nature Trail, Morni hills, etc, apart from criss-crossing PU and northern sectors.

Forgive us, O tiny ones

The predatory instinct of humans wanes to the utmost when confronted by the piteous sight of fish in death throes. It was heart-rending to watch videos shot by common citizens and riverside folk last week when the Beas molasses dumping left in its wake a genocide of fish diversity. People could only watch helplessly as fish struggled to flee their river home after the water turned acidic and was robbed of dissolved oxygen.

Manaku’s painting of tiny fish that outgrow the pond. (Collection Rakesh Sinha, London )

Closer to Chandigarh, I have witnessed fishing contractors net thousands of little fish from Shivalik dams at Mirzapur, Siswan and Perch. The little ones are termed ‘trash fish’ by the Punjab fisheries department though they are native, wild species and form the staple diet of birds and reptiles. The department allows contractors to exterminate ‘trash fish’ because they nibble into food and precious oxygen ‘reserved’ for commercial carps introduced into dams.

The above disdain for fish does not harmonise with our indigenous cultures that venerate pisces. Ordinary folk adore fish swimming in ponds of gurdwaras and mandirs though they often overfeed them to death! The Golden Temple’s sarovar constitutes an iconic cultural interface of humans and pisces. Eminent art historian professor BN Goswamy in his book, Manaku of Guler, states: “Among the many avataras of Vishnu, the fish generally figures as the very first.”

Professor Goswamy refers to Manaku’s painting of 1740-’45 from the ‘Bhagavata Purana’ series titled, ‘When the fish outgrew the pond.’ In the Purana’s eighth Skandha, Lord Vishnu assumes the form of a tiny fish and comes into the hands of the unaware royal sage, Satyavrata. The sage wanted to throw her away but to his surprise she spoke to him in an imploring voice. The tiny one kept growing larger and larger under the patronage of the sage king and had to be shifted to the sea. Realisation dawned on Satyavrata that the fish was no ordinary creature. He was proved right and Lord Vishnu appeared and granted him ‘darshan’. “The story goes further and one reads about the deluge which was going to overtake earth and from which the fish would save the king and other creatures by taking them to safety,” wrote professor Goswamy.

vjswild1@gmail.com

First Published: May 27, 2018 11:48 IST