Sunday, December 30, 2007
This One is for the Birds
1938 - A shooting party headed by the then Viceroy of India shot a maximum of 4,273 birds on 12th November.
1965 - The last leopard was shot with a gun
1967 - Keoladeo Ghana declared a reserved forest
1981 - Keoladeo upgraded to the status of a National Park
Situated 176 Kms away from Delhi, KEOLADEO GHANA NATIONAL PARK has about 400 species of birds. If you have never seen the ever dwindling species of birds called the Siberian Crane, then you must know that this is one of the two places in the world where this bird can be seen. the other one is in Iran.
Purshottam has been plying his rickshaw since he was 21 years old. His father was a guide at the Bharatpur bird sanctuary as well. Affectionately called Purshotti by everyone around, he keeps pointing out the various species of birds as we go. He knows their names in Bengali as well he tells me. "I have learnt the names of at least 30 birds in German and French languages. After all it is the tourists I have to depend on." He amazes me with his knowledge of birds and his ability to spot them. He loves chatting and keeps me engrossed with trivia and bird facts. I try to ask him about the brightly colored Kingfisher that is flitting around the marshy patch to my right. Purshotti silences me midway. He gets off from his rickshaw and looks up at what seems like a Palm Tree. I follow my teacher. He shows me a brown owl sitting snugly and blinking at the early rays of the morning Sun. Purshotti has tiptoed to the next tree and is gesticulating wildly to me to show me another owl. "They always move in pairs."
I rub my hands together to keep myself warm. The quaint little tea-shop in the sanctuary is brewing some tea. The clientele is building up. That includes a curious Neelgai who is keen to join us for breakfast. The visitors to the park have been feeding this Neelgai human food for so long that this particular animal no longer enjoys grass like the rest of them. Purshotti clicks his head in disapproval at the visitors trying to feed the animal some sandwiches.
When will we ever learn??
Bharatpur is hop step and jump from the Taj Mahal and the beautiful city of Fatehpur Sikri. The next time you are in the vicinty stop by to look at an amazing collection of birds and a few animals. If you meet Purshotti, say Hi to him.