A few columns ago, I wrote about the various bird families that have made my premises their home. I deliberately left out one particular species on the grounds that I wanted to devote an entire column to it.I was once an avid ‘shikari’, who lost no opportunity to squeeze the trigger and gloat at the resultant heap of blood-stained feathers at my feet. It was a particular incident in pursuit of game that changed my outlook and converted me from a hunter to a conservationist. It was very late in life that I decided to build a house for myself and my family. The spot I chose for this purpose was like a small paradise amidst lush green hills, the ever-present fragrance of pines and peace where, as one of my friends put it, one could “hear silence itself”.When I first saw the place, it was early spring and the surrounding hilltops were still carrying their white blanket of snow. I sat on a rock at their beauty, when there was a whirring sound and a small brown object hurtled passed me, landing some distance away in the undergrowth. I sat stock still, when a piercing call of “tee-ta-too, tee-ta-too, tee-ta-too” shattered the surrounding silence.As days passed and construction work began on what was to be my only asset in life, I became aware that food scraps thrown out by the workmen were attracting scores of birds. I soon became addicted to spending dusk in an easy chair enjoying the sight of my feathered friends enjoying their evening meal. It was during one of these ‘shows’ that I noticed some brown forms darting in and out of the bushes. This became my second encounter with the central characters of this week’s column - brown partridges.Next day, I arrived at the construction site and scattered some food grains on the stonewall that ran around the land, in a failed effort to draw the birds closer. It was then that I realised that the partridges I had seen earlier were not coming for the bread scraps, but for the many ‘creepy crawlies’ that were attracted by the food. Having discovered that white ants bred in dark moist conditions, I contrived an ingenious way to entice the birds. I did this by wetting pieces of jute gunny bags and placing them on the ground inside my boundary wall, at a few spots suspected of being ant colonies. My efforts bore fruit and one day I discovered a thriving white ant colony on the underside of one of these gunny pieces.All that was left to do now was to be patient and wait. It was two weeks before my vigil was rewarded and I saw two partridges scratching at the piece of sacking and vigorously pecking at what was underneath. It was not long before I began to edge my chair closer to, what had now become a regular feeding spot for a number of these birds.My narration of what was happening drew disbelief from friends and family till such time that I showed them the spectacle of half a dozen partridges of all sizes busy gorging themselves on their favourite menu. With each passing day, my chair kept moving inch by inch, till I sat yards away from the spot, satisfied in the knowledge that I had finally been accepted as ‘no threat’ by my new friends. My evening activity did not last long as new houses began appearing in the neighbourhood and the birds disappeared. It was almost a year later that having completed the house and put trees and plants in their appointed places, we decided to move in - little realising that a miracle would soon unfold right before our eyes.One morning as I strolled around garden, I was attracted by a sound coming from one of the pear trees growing in a corner of the lawn. As I peered through the foliage, I detected a brown feathered form quivering in the branches. I soon had the partridge in my hands and was horrified to see it covered with blood, oozing from wounds inflicted by small-grape pellets. It took me an hour to clean the injuries and do what I could for the bird. For the next two weeks, I saw a miracle taking place as the bird survived and rapidly healed.I now have a friend, who is free to go wherever it wants to go, but always returns to my hand to fluff himself and then flutter down to the large earth-filled pot partially covered by a rectangle of wet jute sacking.
The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.