King of Fishing

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I am intently looking around the foggy-grey landscape or to be precise, lakescape of Sakhiya Sagar (at Madhav National Park in Madhya Pradesh State of India) while enjoying the warmth of morning Sun, on a chilly winter morning. The lake is said to be full of crocs but I am not able to see any. It is too cold for them to emerge as yet to Sun themselves.


It’s mostly grey around over the lake, at other end I see a gang of Cormorants, may be 50 floating together, while four-five would randomly rise from the surface and fly ziz-zag near the group along with some egrets. It was quite far off. So not clear if they are making use of the movement to catch some food as it comes to surface or in air. It was certainly surprising to find the species in gregarious formation.


Suddenly, I notice action, nearer home. Just below where I am standing, is a small boat landing / boarding platform. It is build of colourful plastic blocks, entirely unsuitable for a wildlife reserve – unethical and distasteful. On the rope railing of the platform lands a small brightly coloured bird.


I am very easily able to identify, it is Common Kingfisher. I am sure even a layman would be able to identify it is a kingfisher, particular species beside.


Though this is a small, sparrow sized bird, with short stumpy tail, but its bright blue-green upper parts with rusty under parts with a dash of white in eye liner and chin and straight pointed long bill make it conspicuous.


Conspicuous kingfisher finds a place in the poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame’. ‘Catches fire’ is the bright radiance of the plumage as light falls on it.


At the moment, it is hugely satisfied guy. Its holding a fish crosswise too large for its size in the beak – true to its name, it is king fisher.


I am not equipped for bird photography e.g. high telephoto zoom along with camera mounted on a mono or tripod, but the situation attracts me to take few pot shots.


Soon the fish is adjusted in the beak and popped into the mouth, head first. It is nothing like ‘the quarry is battered to pulp and swallowed,’ as mentioned in ‘The Book of Indian Birds’ (1941) by Salim Ali. Salim Ali’s observation is three quarters of a century old. Those days, it used to be leisurely meals, now-a-days its fast food culture.


It is a wonder, how such a small bird could swallow such a large fish! I take few shots because the bird is in the process of adjusting itself with a heavy diet.


It seems some more adjustment is required to accommodate the large prey – soon the fisher ejects a jet of white stuff (dropping)!


Common kingfisher, though not so common, is an attractive species found darting across water surface of a lake or pond, uttering a share and shrill chi-chec…At times, for catching prey, it suddenly drop from its perch, bill foremost, disappearing below the surface and soon emerging with a fish in its bill – be on lookout for the magical act.



Water o water, what is your colour


When we think of water, so many images of serene lake, floods, serpentine river, swamps, playful waves or violent sea may pass across our mind…

And with water comes life – birds are the first wildlife we associate with water – colourful water fowl, egrets and herons, kingfisher, river tern…of course fishes, tortoise and turtles, dolphin, whales…On the other hand, what would a tiger or elephant do without water?

There are a whole lot of water sports and tourism…fishing, swimming, boating, sailing, to name a few. Fishing is our national past time in a manner of speaking. I have seen people in country side forgoing wage of, say, INR 250 to catch INR 25 worth of fish! But than life is not money.

We, in a city like Delhi, living in urban area, getting 300 litre per day per person piped water supply, may not realise importance of water for drinking, and of course, for all other domestic needs, including bathing. Those living in water stressed areas know the importance of even a drop of water!

All said and done, ‘water is the most important element for survival of life – no human-being, animal or plant can survive without it.’

It may be good for kids to sing ‘Rain rain go away, come another day, little Johnny wants to play…’ or for adults rushing to work in cities wish ‘Rain rain go away, come another day…’ but farmers wish ‘Rain rain do not go away, come today, come today…’ It is rain that recharge our rivers, lakes, ground water.

Government of India looks forward to timely and full quota of rains. Nation looks towards the Met Department’s prediction of rain with crossed fingers and lot of nervousness – even a hint of deficit rain brings the Planning Commission and PMO on toes, and share markets become bearish.

Goa is planning its water policy. There are several issues it must deal with. Groundwater is getting severely depletion due to mining. Springs, lakes, rivers and marine water are impacted due to industrial development and pollution. Untreated Sewage draining in to wetlands and rivers acts as the last nail in the coffin.

In the Goa context, we have found in a survey during the mining ban: ‘Post the ban on mining (by the Supreme Court of India in 2012), there is an improvement in fresh water bodies and revival of springs was noticed’.

The policy needs to be drafted in a holistic manner. A mechanism may be inbuilt, so that it is respected with implementation so that water remains water.

Pushp Jain

ToI Pg 02 04022016 Draft Water Policy ignores ground realities





The sun is not out, yet. It’s chilly January morning in the hills. The surroundings are enveloped in fog. There is mist rising from the Ram Ganga River. We are driving in the dreamland of Corbett.


The jeep is an open Zypsy. It’s a narrow dust track. We suddenly notice this guy and stop. He is busy at the edge of the track. We are hardly two-three metres, yet the wild boar does not run away. It is working hard to dig out a juicy-root snack and would not like to forgo because two old wildlifers are hanging around – hell with them!


The light is very poor – I take few shots at 1000 ASA. The ground has been dug almost a foot- deep but the root is not still within hand, I mean mouth – and the guy is digging furiously, making lot of noise as well. We are not able to take good shots as the boar is neck deep into the pit.


We move the vehicle a bit to get a better angle. We notice that the handsome guy is a tusker, though with small tusksm – protruding white shining sickle shaped stuff. The coat is shiny grey-black.


Movement of the vehicle, and people too close, makes the animal feel ‘Do not be careless.’ It reacts by leaping out of the pit and moving two metres into the bushes, but nowhere prepared to go away and give up its meal. Within few minutes, it is back and restarts the digging, now more furiously.


I recollect, during early 1980s in Corbett, foresters used to tell us stories of hotheadedness of wild boar. It was reported to be capable to dashing straight into an adversary, like a bullet and with similar speed. It was said, that strong-headed wild boar, if cornered, can even charge at a leopard or tiger.  So, we thought “let it be.”


It seems, it is ‘wild boar’ morning for us. Now, we run into three boars sitting still and tight, very close to each other, to share each other’s body warmth, on the chilly morning. They are right there in middle of another narrow dust track. Simply lazing around, in contrast to the busy young boar, we earlier met. In fact, two bank mynas were busy servicing them – by removing ticks and other pests.


These guys do not want to give way – too lazy to get up and move off the track. Must be cursing us for disturbing them in their relaxed movement.


Thinking of this animal, the fact is that it (Sus scrofa cristatus) cannot be described as beautiful though some time it may look good. It, of course, does not need any description. Though it may be of interest to know, wild boar is the ancestor of the domestic pig, it breeds fast, and is widely distributed.


The conflict between humans and wild boars are not uncommon…agricultural crop depredation by wild boars is another problem in many parts of India.[1] The situation can be so bad, for example, Kerala has given conditional permission to farmers to kill wild boars that reportedly destroy crops in several parts of Kerala.[2]


One would not believe that these carefree and merrily loitering lots can even cause an airplane accident.  It is only two months ago, ‘around 50 passengers aboard a SpiceJet flight had a close shave … after a herd of wild boars marched onto the runway after the plane had landed at Jabalpur, swinging the aircraft off the runway.’[3]


On the positive side, in most simplistic terms, wild boar is known as farmer of the forest – ploughing it.


Surprisingly, it finds a high place in Indian mythology. ‘A story present in the Brahmanas has Indra slaying an avaricious boar, who has stolen the treasure of the asuras, then giving its carcass to Vishnu, who offered it as a sacrifice to the gods. In the story’s retelling in the Charaka samhita, the boar is described as a form of Prajapati, and is credited with having raised the earth from the primeval waters. In the Ramanana and the Puranas, the same boar is portrayed as an avatar of Vishnu.[4]


Pushp Jain