Thursday, December 27, 2007

Red beaked brown-breasted blue eyed something…


Last weekend I was all alone at home with nothing to do. My wife and daughter (Aditi) are away holidaying in hometown Bangalore while I brave the year-end sales target as well as the winter of Delhi all alone. As you can imagine the setting led to a rather somber mood and the home was almost - running to bite me – (Ghar katne ko daur raha tha)- borrowing from Hindi as nothing in English does better justice to my mood.

A friend of mine Amoghavarsha, who calls himself a geek, wildlifer & photographer called and said he is going to the bird sanctuary at Bharatpur (Keoladeo Ghana National Park) to photograph some migratory birds that visit this sanctuary every winter. Well, I am not bird watching type of person and the only birds I can recognize with confidence is the Crow, the sparrow, the peacock and the Chicken (ahem!) and here I was being invited by some one who is a relative expert in the area and passionate about wildlife and conservation. With some trepidation about and feeling like a duck out of water I agreed to accompany the party of Amogha and his friends Pavi and Rati. I also wanted to take my new car for a drive out into the highway and offered to drive the party up and down as well.

We started off from Delhi at 6 am on the freezing Sunday morning. The effective toyota heater comforted my passengers into deep sleep and soon I was left to enjoy the drive alone only to be later accompanied by the rhythmic percussion of 3 soft snores.

The drive on the Delhi-Agra NH2 is simply beautiful once you get out of Faridabad. The median has bougainvillea planted all along and they were in full bloom. There was a moment, around 7 am, when the sun was just rising and igniting the sarson (mustard) fields on either side and the full bloom bougainvillea in the center of the road was swaying in the wind. Man! Some highways in India can have real sights if you look for them. I wish I had a picture of that moment, but I think it would be impossible to capture on camera. The road is world class and we made very good time only to stop for steaming parathas and tea on the way, this 30 minute break notwithstanding we reached the sanctuary at 9.30 Am, covering approximately 240 Kms in 3 hours of drive time. Not bad at all by Indian Highway standards.

I had heard about the Siberian Crane that vists the sanctuary every year in winter and was keen to see it. The guides informed us that the variety that used to visit the sanctuary is now extinct. Apparantly, they used to trace a set path from Siberia flying over Afghanistan. The Siberian Crane would fly by moonlight and rest by daylight. The bitter fighting in Afghanistan over the last decade led to shortage of food in the winters and the beautiful birds - which were otherwise safe in the many years that they traveled the route - were the unsuspecting martyrs of a war that even many humans do not understand, forget the Siberian Crane. I was disappointed beyond words to hear this story and almost felt like heading back to Delhi.

Anyways, we proceeded on bicycles inside the sanctuary (vehicles are banned inside) along with a well-informed guide. We saw a variety of beautiful birds. Amogha got the shots he wanted and you can see a preview here. The names of all those birds are are now impossible for me reproduce – the title of this post captures my illiteracy in this area and sad to report I did not come back any wiser from this trip. All the biology was a bit too much to digest in one day. To make matters worse we cycled for more than 25 Kms through the day on a cycle seat that was designed to inflict pain. The stony cobbled path and the shove-it- where-it-hurts-the-most-seat conspired to first take the joy away, then moved to sheer pain, and finally broke my spirit 6 hours into the expedition. I tempted Rati with the prospect of a cold beer at the government hotel at the entrance of the sanctuary and she agreed immediately – while Amogha and Pavi continued like pros only to join us after a delay of 20 minutes! Vijay Mallaya’s Kingfisher won on this day over Bharatpur’s Kingfisher! It took only 20 minutes to break the pros!

The drive back was uneventful and equally beautiful. I was looking for the spot where I caught the sunrise the day before and we caught the sunrise this time as well at more or less the same spot. We stopped at a different dhaba (road side restaurant). The parathas this time were better, I had the tandoor version on the way back and it was better than the Tawa version we had a day earlier – the milky sweet tea was as good.

Amogha’s desire was to take me to Bharatpur as a tourist and bring me back as a conservationist, I can’t say that the objective was achieved fully, but the story of the Siberian Crane and hearing of its extinction did some thing to me…it made me really sad in a very beautiful place.

You do not have to be an expert to be believe in conservation, I dont know what those birds are called, but I want to my daughter to see them when she grows up. Lets save the Red beaked brown-breasted blue eyed something…for Aditi.

42 comments:

Kiruba Shankar said...

Dev, pictures always enhance a travelogue. See if you can take a few from Amogh and add it to this post.

Sad to hear about the afghanistan war and its effect on the birds.

The post has reminded me to make a trip to Vedanthangal, a bird sanctuary near Chennai that I need to take my kids to.

Sudhir syal said...

Hi Dev,

Enjoyed reading this. I think the tag of 'gavar' traveller has stuck on, be it the Coffee of Coorg or the birds of Bharatpur.

And someone said that the most constant thing in life was was change...

Dev said...

yes kiruba - amogha is some where deep in the forests of MP. I intend to update the post with some photos from him when he is back.

Dev said...

Mr syal - The 'gavar tourist' tag has almost become a part of my identity after you decided to call me that. I its a part of my charm and how can I change that my friend.

anita said...

Vijay Mallaya’s Kingfisher won on this day over Bharatpur’s Kingfisher - Hehe, brilliant Dev! Only you can come up with this kind of stuff!!

And I can't beleive Amogh slept all the way considering he can talk a dime to a dozen!

But I do hope you buy a nice birding book for your daughter at least now. She should definitely grow up with a little more bird knowledge :)

240kms in 3 hours! wow! no speed limits aa?

and nice travelogue!

Dev said...

birding book for the daughter sounds like a good idea anita - thanks for the suggestion and thanks for your comments. Coming from some one of your standing in the travelouge writing space, it means a lot :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Dev,

Stumbled onto this page from Kiruba's blog. This is good stuff!
You have a pleasant writing style and interesting content as well. So writing seems to be yet another of your many unfulfilled talents.The challenge is to keep this going which I hope you will.

Now I am inspired ! If a corporate bigshot like you can find the time to write for pleasure, so should lesser mortals like me.

Abhimanyu

Manish Lohani said...

Dev,
Great stuff. I was reading some of your older blog's and then read the last two. Not that the earlier ones are not great...but the new ones felt like vintaged wine. Mellowed and coming of age of the blogger.
Good stuff. Give me also 2-3 more months. Tab tak, kuch tips do.
Lohani

Dev said...

Hey Abhimanyu - My life story is one of many unfulfilled talents. I guess, there is a need for guys like me so that we can applaud the ones who are able to fulfill their talents. Hope you are able to, becasue you have lots of it.

Dev said...

Manish - Thanks a lot for your compliements. I think its too early to have come of age, i think its a case of you guys inspiring some more effort and attention. Still have a long way to go. You are doing a good job too.

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Amoghavarsha said...

Just got back to a computer after a long time, will send across the pics in just a couple of days, sorry dev for the delay

Anonymous said...

Dev,

Just wanted you to know that I saw a BBC documantray on the disapperaing tiger, mainly due to poaching and a cavalier attitude on part of the Indian Govt re: conservation.

I watached it late in the night on PBS, last month and felt sick in my stomach. Dev, the much vaunted "Project Tiger" program which was successful initially had failed to the extent that we now have lesser tigers in India, than we had them, in early 70's or so, when Project Tiger was launched. So much so, for what our CBSE textbooks used to tell us.

Check this out:

http://www.mikebirkhead.com/TigerZero.htm

I do not know how we can have access to such programs in India, but, man, PBS usually borrows such documentaries from BBC. I would strongly recommend your buddies to see this documentary. In fact, acc to this documentary, Sariska wildlife sanctuary has NO TIGERS left (I do not recollect the exact name of the wildlife reserve -- apparently it is very close to Delhi).

Our citizens have no clue as to how and why taxpaters' money has gone down the drain when there are no results to prove, as far as wildlife conservation is concerned. Sorry for sounding so distraught but if you check that film out, you'll know what I mean...

Sri

Anonymous said...

Hey Dev,

I have given you the link for the incorrect film. The one I was referring to is:

http://www.mikebirkhead.com/programmes.html

I would urge animal lovers (i.e. visitors to this blog) to check that film out : "Battle to Save the Tiger"

I realize that India is in the midst of a huge inductrial/societal/technological/consumerist boom that we have not see in eons, BUT as our generation is the custodian of natural resources including wildlife, we are failing to call our ruling class' bluff on this issue. If I sound alrmist, there is a valid reason for it, folks.

All this consumerism and high-tech jingoism should not rob us of our souls. I was petrified and sickened (to say the least) when I saw this documentary. If I recollect, the great David Attenborough is the narrator. Plz check it out.

Sri

Dev said...

thanks sri - will have a look at the film and will share my response to it soon. terribly busy these days, but i will get to it soon

Anil P said...

Nice easy flow to the post. Like you said it is always sad when a bird species hurtles towards extinction, if for nothing else than for the fact that like all species it too ran the gamut of centuries, seeking its own, surviving odds, embellishing life, and most importantly its right to live.

Dev said...

thanks for visitng the blog anil. and your comment

Anonymous said...

Dev,

What is this story with gharials dying in the Chambal river?

http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/bahardutt/258/3587/killer-disease-wipes-out-ghariyals.html

Sri

vivek said...

Hi Dev,

This is my frist post here (hope that this is the first of many !). Very nice stuff. I managed to read most of your blog posting and some comments as well.

Coming back to the Bharatpur trip, I think you have conveniently forgotten that you spent more than an hour talking to me that day.. (and you were not cycling when you were talking to me !) I remember because I informed you of our move back to India.

Anyway, really enjoyed the posts and Amoghavarsha's website. What can I say, the snaps are beautiful ! Looking forward to visiting some of these places now that I will be in India.

vivek

Dev said...

Vivek

Thanks for visiting and your comment as well. Yes, the conversation with u was my break - btw I was cycling while talking to u...at least for a while :-)

vivek said...

Ha ha ! no worries, I was just trying to pull your leg. BTW, I see a post from Abhi. Is that our good old Abhimanyu Roy from SIT ? Its been a loooong time since I talked to him.

vivek

Dev said...

yes, its the same old abhimanyu - u may not recognise him tho if u meet him now :-)

Anonymous said...

Dev (and other wildlife entthisiasts)....plz pay attention to this article I gabbed from The Hindu. We have lost over half od the tigers in India, over the past five years:

http://www.hindu.com/2008/02/13/stories/2008021357240100.htm

Sri

Anonymous said...

Dev,

For all wildlife enthusiasts in India, just found this:

http://features.ibnlive.com/special/tiger_series_special.html

Sri

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