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Wildbuzz: The poet’s Shahbaaz

How would the chick of a very rare species of the region, the Mottled wood owl, rescued from the Chandigarh Golf Club by international golfer, Sujjan Singh, recently lead us to the heart of these connections?

punjab Updated: Aug 26, 2018 09:09 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
Wildbuzz,ghazal,Jagjit and Chitra Singh
Late Kanwar MS Bedi with a goshawk and (right) his brother, late Justice Tikka Jagjit S Bedi, at a sangeet ceremony in Chandigarh, 1972. (CHADHA FINE ART STUDIO)

Could the ghazal, ‘Aaye hain samjhane log’, immortalised by Jagjit and Chitra Singh, have any link with the noble and majestic State Bird of Punjab, the Northern goshawk?

How would the chick of a very rare species of the region, the Mottled wood owl, rescued from the Chandigarh Golf Club by international golfer, Sujjan Singh, recently lead us to the heart of these connections? The heart is the late Kanwar Mohinder Singh Bedi ‘Sahar’, the renowned Urdu poet (who composed the above ghazal), author, bureaucrat and passionate keeper of hawks who gave Punjab a new State Bird in 1989.

I went to meet the owl, Sujjan and his mother, Kanwal Sukhinder Singh, in their Sector 5 residence in Chandigarh.

As the conversation took a ramble from owls to hawks, Kanwal mentioned she was Bedi’s niece. She possessed a photograph from her 1972 wedding album of Bedi gracing the sangeet with a goshawk on his wrist. I was thrilled at the photograph as I had researched and written extensively on the goshawk since 2008 but knew little about Bedi.

Way back in 1989, when the Hoopoe’s short reign as State Bird was terminated, then chief wildlife warden, Gurmit Singh, consulted Bedi on the replacement. The Bedis, who trace their lineage to Guru Nanak, had kept goshawks since generations. “During our meeting at Chelmsford Club (Delhi), Bedi told me that the goshawk was strongly associated with Sikh sentiments and the martial legacy of the people of Punjab as it was the ‘Baaz/Shahbaaz’ kept by Guru Gobind Singh ji. Bedi’s affirmation put a seal on the goshawk’s selection as State Bird,” said Singh.

Grandfather of the celebrity Mandira Bedi and chacha (uncle) of Justice HS Bedi (retired Supreme Court judge), Bedi retired as director, Panchayats, Punjab, in 1966. “Chacha ji would procure goshawks from Pakistan and train them. On winter afternoons in the early 1960s, I would accompany him with a quartet of goshawks to scrublands that later turned into Chandimandir-Panchkula. Chacha ji would fly goshawks at partridges flushed from those bushes. Upon a kill, the goshawk would either sit on the partridge or take it to a tree. We would tempt the goshawk with a piece of chicken or mutton and ‘puchh-puchh’ it like a pet dog, and the goshawk would renounce the partridge for our consumption!” Justice Bedi told this writer.

Monsoon flowers at Rohtang Pass, Manali. (Photo courtesy : Umesh Gogna )

Beyond the snows

Professional photographer, traveller and landscape lover, Umesh Gogna, has an illuminating take on the hordes of tourists thronging Rohtang Pass. He terms them the “Mall Road Creatures”. If there is too much snow at Rohtang, there is nothing else to see because the thick blanket suppresses everything. When snows melt, turn sparse and a dirty, faecal light-brown due to pollution, tourists don’t want anything more than a selfie update at “Snow Point”.

Gogna took masterly photographs of waterfalls, macho rocks gleaming with the lustre of monsoon wash, mountains coyly veiled with wisps of muslin clouds and verdant meadows brimming with July-August blooms and termed it, “The Real Life of Rohtang Pass”. Gogna’s pictures serve to dispel the oppression of snow obsession. Of particular beauty and originality was Gogna’s picture of wild flowers filling the vales with fragrance.

To quote the late naturalist PM, Indira Gandhi: “I never cease to be astonished at the sight of wild flowers in the high mountains, their tiny colourful heads peering out of unlikely nooks and crevices, tenaciously defying the most inhospitable elements.”

Few snow junkie tourists would care to appreciate or click a picture of Mother Earth’s crown jewels. And, were we in a vain moment to believe that plants cannot prosper in the infinity that lies beyond our blue planet, alpine blooms could be bestowed a peerage of the greatest grandeur: Crown Jewels of the Cosmos!

(The writer can be contacted at vjswild1@gmail.com)

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 09:09 IST