New Delhi -°C
Today in New Delhi, India

Sep 19, 2019-Thursday



Select city

Metro cities - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata

Other cities - Noida, Gurgaon, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Bhopal , Chandigarh , Dehradun, Indore, Jaipur, Lucknow, Patna, Ranchi

Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Wildbuzz | Stealth of a giant

This is the 300th edition of the Wildbuzz.

punjab Updated: Nov 11, 2017 21:17 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Python in the bushes at Bird Walk, Sukhna lake.
Python in the bushes at Bird Walk, Sukhna lake.(SUKHWINDER SINGH)

A thrilling encounter in the tricity’s peripheral wilderness is when you literally stumble over a Goliath serpent, the Rock python. Unlike the clear, full-length python images published in media, which are of rescued specimens or those lynched by hysterical villagers, wilderness encounters afford fleeting, partial views. But they truly reflect the habitat and the mystique of such a large creature. The python can camouflage itself like a commando and slither with the stealth of the jungle’s ethereal spirit. A mighty python can turn as still as a log to escape detection.

Last week, birders, Sukhwinder Singh and Vikas Salil Sharma, stole into the Bird Walk at Sukhna Lake’s regulator end and came across splendid spirits of the air. Tempted to find more esoteric birds, they plunged into daunting bushes. “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw, in the bush brushing my knees, a mighty python,” Singh told this writer. The python was equally flustered, evidently not habituated to humans trampling through his undisturbed domain. This python has taken residence at the Bird Walk as the trail has been cut off due to monsoons. It has turned a haven for wild creatures as it is free of cavorting youths and addicts, who tend to create a hullabaloo, not unlike ancestral primates escaping from zoos!

Sukhna’s forest guard, Sagar, who is a natural bushman and tracker, has observed the python anchoring its tail along a branch overhanging the water and hunting big fish/wetland birds. It would be a pity, really, if these bushes are cleared by JCB machines for visitor/bird-watching convenience as the home of the python and many small creatures would be razed like ‘illegal jhuggi-jhopri colonies’.

Broken bangles

It was 38 years ago when the bestial spirit of medieval Rome re-visited the modern age. A barbaric episode took place at the Pakistan Army’s Thakurgaon camp in erstwhile East Pakistan, whose memory will make civilisation’s hair stand on end. Freedom fighter, Mohammad Salahuddin (18), was captured on November 10, 1971, after he was lured into a trap at his parental home. What follows has been written by the decorated Bangladesh Army officer, Lt Col QS Ali Zahir, in the book, ‘Liberation Bangladesh 1971: First-hand, untold, action stories from the War Zone’. Lt Col Zahir reveals that Pakistani soldiers indulged in such horrific acts and rapes that liberating forces found broken bangles and torn women’s clothes strewn in forward trenches.

The Chhatbir zoo leopard, nicknamed ‘Lemoo’ by his zoo-keeper, in a ferocious mood at feeding time.
The Chhatbir zoo leopard, nicknamed ‘Lemoo’ by his zoo-keeper, in a ferocious mood at feeding time. ( SHIVJOT S. BHULLAR )

Salahuddin was tortured for the full day and night at the behest of camp commander, Maj Mahmud Hassan Beig, notorious for extreme acts of cruelty. However, Salahuddin’s spirit did not break and on November 11, 1971, the Pakistanis announced in Thakurgaon’s streets that an ‘exceptional entertainment’ show was to be staged for the public. Salahuddin’s clothes were stained with blood and his hands and legs broken. Maj Beig gave him a last chance: reveal Mukti Bahini’s operational secrets or face death. The lad was unbowed, his spirit akin to a man laughing in the face of a firing squad.

The firing squad he faced was a cage, which had two angry, hungry leopards and two cubs commandeered by Maj Beig from a circus. Salahuddin’s limbs were tied and he was flung in. It was a re-enactment of Rome’s ghastly public arena spectacles. “Within moments, they had chunks of human flesh in their jaws...The leopards tore apart his body...and soon all that remained was a pool of blood, a few bones and torn clothing. A freedom fighter died that afternoon, his blood mingling with the soil of Bangladesh. Nevertheless, in his defiance till the very end, it was he who was the victor,” wrote Lt Col Zahir.

A dawn necklaced

Muktsar’s chief judicial magistrate Vishesh Kamboj is a keen outdoorsman and wildlife photographer who is passionate about birding at the Hussainiwalla reservoir and horse riding at his family’s farm. His crystal clear images of avians and turtles throw light on Hussainiwalla’s lesser-known biodiversity. Back for the weekend at his ancestral bungalow in Ferozepur, he drifted to the garden after a workout at 5.30am. The garden was veiled in a muslin mist and his roving eye fell upon a spider’s web draping a rose bush. He would not have noticed the web were it not for the breeze that gently stirred the lurking web and whispered to the departing night’s silence. Winter’s mystique filled that dawn as dew drops had strung diamond-like sparklers on the spider’s elaborate trap.

Dewdrops on a spider’s web.
Dewdrops on a spider’s web. ( PHOTO: VISHESH KAMBOJ )

Kamboj’s macro lens drew out --- with finesse, colour and expression --- one of those myriad spectacles of dew bathing earth for the forthcoming day’s proceedings. The dew’s necklace is to dawn what the moon’s crescent is to the night sky. The sickle moon, upon waxing and waning, is a gazer upon earth but for a few nights. But in those lunar phases, the necklace moon reigns as the most beautiful queen of all celestial spectacles.

(The author can be contacted at

First Published: Nov 11, 2017 20:11 IST