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Wildbuzz: Human who won a pitta’s trust

The Indian pitta or ‘Naurang’ is like a ghost fleeing through the tricity and steering well clear of humans. So named because the bird sports a rainbow of dazzling...

Updated: Aug 22, 2020, 22:41 IST

By Vikram Jit Singh, Hindustan Times Chandigarh

Joginder Singh was a trusty perch for this lost pitta. (PHOTOS: GS PIRZADA)

The Indian pitta or ‘Naurang’ is like a ghost fleeing through the tricity and steering well clear of humans. So named because the bird sports a rainbow of dazzling colours, the Naurang is a rarity within urban clusters though encountered frequently in the Shivalik foothills. Even there, the bird’s call is heard more than its resplendent robes revealed as it prefers deep concealment among leafy boughs like a beautiful singer whose lilting tunes waft from behind a palace of veils. Given such an entrenched instinct to shirk human presence, it was nothing less than a mystical tryst between man and bird at a Sector 4 bungalow in Chandigarh. A Naurang accepted the hand of trust and help extended by a chauffeur, who had himself never seen such a beautiful bird before.

Joginder Singh was resting when his eye fell upon a ‘mosaic on wings’ sitting unusually on the verandah floor and looking down and out. Thinking that the bird would fly away, he extended his hand towards the feathered apparition. Instead of spurting away with an indignant squawk, the Naurang took the extended arm as a bridge of trust and clambered aboard. After that it perched on Singh’s shoulder and then quaintly and quite possessively on his head! The bird seemed disoriented but harboured no doubt about the human’s intentions. Joginder took the pitta into his quarters and gave it water but the bird refused the offered scraps of food.

“Joginder left the bird outside and it flew to a small tree. After some time, Joginder saw the bird was still there and he extended his hand again. The bird responded by flying to his arm and comfortably perching on it! By now, the bird seemed to have regained energy and flew away to a high Neem tree after spending a little more time with Joginder. After that, it was not seen again. We did not know the bird’s identification but were left charmed by its colours and the trust it reposed in our household,” Joginder’s employer, former IAS officer Gurnihal S Pirzada, told this writer.


The many-splendoured Rain lilies at Panjab University. ( PHOTO: SUKHWANT S. RAJ )

The large, brooding gates of the Panjab University (PU) are closed. They bear a determined expression as frontline warriors ranged against Covid expansionism. But an exquisite photograph taken last week of wild Rain lilies from PU’s Dr PN Mehra Botanical Gardens lends a sneak peek into the vitality of Nature pulsating within the ghost town of higher academia.

A resource person with the Punjab School Education Board, Sukhwant S Raj, had gone to drop his wife to a PU block and wandered into the gardens. Upon seeing lily blooms sprawled like guillotined heads of rebels, he thought these were fallen Amaltas till the maalis made him wiser. One of them remarked that these were ‘gha’ (wild grasses) and needed to be pruned every alternate day to keep them in strict check! Doubtless, the gardeners did not share a high opinion of these rows upon rows of mini-tulip-like blooms that would otherwise conjure a scene straight out of an Amitabh Bachchan movie shot in Holland, the memorable Silsila!

Untended by gardeners, lily bubs lurk under the soil and gallantly face every woebegone winter and scorching summer to suddenly rise and stage a flash dance of the monsoons. At the gardens, they stretch right across its deserted expanse like queues of diyas at a memorial of silence. Diyas, whose oil is rain drops, the wick kindled by a flash of lightning. Botanists refer to this lily as Zephyranthes citrina Baker.

Raj’s passion, wonder and joy at photographing these tiny marvels was of a child who had stumbled upon a proverbial Aladdin’s treasure cave. “The lilies were such a refreshing sight. They radiated positivity. I thought that if we start our mornings with such spectacular visions of Nature, we will be filled with happiness and a positive dispensation at the start of the day towards everyone,” Raj told this writer.

Truly said, everything under the heavens seems in utter chaos but the lilies claim the situation is excellent!


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