Tag Archives: Indian subcontinent

Brown headed Barbet

It is also a very beautiful bird with dark green feathers. Barbets are native to Indian subcontinent widely spread across India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The name barbet alludes to the bristles on the sides of eyes. It’s green color makes it difficult sometimes to locate it in the green foliage. It eats fruits and insects. It is a plump bird. I chanced upon this bird some few months back and since then it has been seen and photographed by me quite a number of times. All the photos were shot using Canon powershot sx60 hs camera. Hope you will like them.

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Come back of Gharials in Punjab rivers

The gharial, scientific name Gavialis gangeticus are natives of indian subcontinent. Since they mostly eat fish they are also known as fish eating crocodiles. As the scientific name indicates they are most commonly found in river Ganges. Like Ganges, they were also found in the rivers of North. But almost half a century ago, they vanished from Punjab’s rivers.
There is a famous zoo near Chandigarh. It is called Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park. It is located at a place Chhat Bir. Bir in Punjab is the name given to a forest. There is in that zoological park, a pair laid eggs in captivity and newborns were hatched from 17 eggs. These were carefully looked after and have survived contrary to the earlier botched up attempts. These have crossed the fragile days when mortality rate is high and now getting ready to be sent into the river waters which is their natural habitat.

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Punjab wildlife department has taken a bold initiative to bring them back to their natural habitats in the month of February when the first batch will swim in the Beas and Satluj – two tributaries of the Indus river system.
The project already has got the approval of Union ministry of environment and forests. First the department will educate the inhabitants living along these rivers about the habits of these animals. That they are harmless to humans and eat only fish.
Gharials, which are also known as fish-eating crocodiles, fall in Schedule-I category of Wildlife Protection Act and are considered critically endangered species.
According to district gazetteers of British period, there was a considerable population of gharials in these rivers. Gazetteers of the first decade of the last century have several references regarding their presence. But it was last seen in these rivers when the maharaja of Kapurthala had shot a gharial in 1968.

Sarus Crane: Venerated Bird

The Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) is a large non-migratory crane. It is found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia.  These cranes are the tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 6 feet and live and forage in the wetlands. The Sarus Crane is easily distinguished from other cranes in the region by the overall grey colour and the contrasting red head and upper neck.

Sarus Crane (Grus antigone). Français : Grue A...

In India these birds are held in great esteem. It is said that the epic Ramayana written by sage Valmiki was inspired by an painful incident which happened to him. He was going for taking a bath in the sacred river Tamsha near Allahabad in North India in the morning. He decided to take a walk before taking the bath. On his walk he spotted a pair of Sarus Crane in an inseparable pose and was rooted to their beauty. Suddenly a hunter killed the male bird leaving the female making heart rending cries. The sage cursed the hunter. This poignant scene catalyzed the beginning of writing of the epic poem.

It is believed in India that these birds are the most faithful to each other and for whole of their life cling to each other. If one of them dies, the other pines for the spouse rest of its life and sometimes refuses to take food and die. It is due to this reason, the newly wedded girls in Gujarat and many other parts of India are blessed by the elders to have a life like the Sarus cranes.

Incidentally, just as I was writing this entry, Kaun Banega Crorepati (variant of Who wants to be an millionaire) was being telecast on Sony TV channel by India’s iconic star Amitabh Bachchan  and there he asked one question to a candidate about the name of river on whose shores sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayana which is of course Tamsha as noted above.

English: Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) at Sultan...

In a program about wetlands in India, it was noted that the numbers of these birds are on decline. It may be due to the bad condition of many wetlands because of mindless infusion of pollutants from industries into these bodies of water which support diverse kinds of fauna. For example, the wetland Harike in the Taran Tarn district of Punjab was in a very deplorable state few years back. It resembled a drain from a city. Only due to the efforts of the Sant  Seechewal that many of the rivers and wetlands are breathing again and have been revived.

Burden of Guilt

46 years ago, it was the beginning of 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. The history of two countries of Indian subcontinent is intertwined with one another. As if both were tied with an umbilical cord to each other. Despite being economically poor, both have squandered much of their resources on the mindless wars which have further steeped the population of both the countries in poverty. Both the countries are born of mistrust of each other.

Yet on the level of common man, people from both countries yearn to meet each other. It is the politicians on both the sides who have failed them badly. To hide their inefficiency and corruption, they have taken the shelter under the wars in which every bad deed is masked behind the smoke screen and again it is the common people who bear the brunt.

An instance of humane feelings of people towards each other has come to light in the form of repentance email written by a retired Pakistani pilot to the daughter of a Indian pilot whose civilian plane was shot down and had resulted in the death of the pilot and 7 others including the then chief minister of Gujarat, Balwant Rai Mehta during the beginning of India Pakistan war in September of 1965. The Pakistani pilot was Hussain who was in his early twenties at that time.

In this email, the pilot who is now in his seventies, has condoled the unjustified death of daughter’s father. He said in his mail that he was burdened with the guilt and repentance for the last 45 years and found courage and decided that he shall write to the daughter of the Indian engineer and clear his conscience.

After shooting the plane, Hussain was rather on a high as he was a raw recruit. But when he listened to the news on All India Radio in the evening and came to know that it was a civilian plane and 8 innocent people has been killed, he was filled with remorse. After the completion of his service, he joined a US company and made good fortune and was living comfortably. But somewhere in his heart the incident shall well up again and again and tormented him.

The pilot of Indian plane was Jehangir M Engineer, who belonged to the family of distinguished people. All his brothers were very brave and joined defense services of India and won many laurels for the bravery. When he was gone, there was a vacuum in the family. He was a very dotting father and thorough family man.

The daughter’s name is Farida Singh and she was married to an pilot. She is now about fifty and with courage and valor has overcome the difficult days and problems which the family has to face in the wake of her father’s death. But now all is settled and she being the daughter of such a brave person has taken the gesture of the pilot from Pakistan positively and said that it is the mindless war which is to blame for the sad incidents and a soldier has to obey the commands without any questions