Gurgaon was once upon a time full of farms. If you stood there today, you would think that I am joking. It has tall buildings now – each one built to look more beautiful than its neighboring architecture. Yet there are places apart from the landscaped garden patches that surround the buildings – a few dense lines of trees that stand on the outskirts of the city, that once marked the boundaries of vast farms.
These trees provided the much needed shelter to the birds which did not opt to migrate to other green pastures – of course, the nearest green pasture was hundreds of kilometers away and the journey till that point would have seemed risky. Very few people noticed the presence of birds on the outskirts of Gurgaon. I too wouldn’t have known it, if it wasn’t for Alan.
Alan’s office building was situated on the outskirts with one side of the building facing the dense patch of trees while the entrance of the building was decorated with a lovely patch of garden beyond which ran the highway. Alan’s cabin window faced the trees – it was a lovely view – a sudden contrasting patch of dense green trees beyond which hung the backdrop of tall buildings with their eternally gleaming windows.
A business meeting had brought me from Pune to his office cabin in Gurgaon one day. We were discussing some presentation points together when a loud, harsh ‘meow’ was suddenly heard. “It is strange to hear a cat meow so harshly” I remarked – straying away from my courteous office manners of ignoring all kinds of distracting sounds. “That is not a cat,” corrected Alan – “it is a peacock!” He motioned me towards his sun-screened window which although closed offered a great view of the outside. “You can catch a glimpse if you are lucky” he said. And from the window I saw the most majestic peacock I had ever seen – perching proudly on a tree with its tail as elegant as a new bride’s flowing dress. I was proud of the national bird – it looked so marvelous. But I had never known that its song could frighten the wits out of me. If it wasn’t for Alan, I would have never known what a peacock sounded like.
Alan had come from another place, and everything about Gurgaon fascinated him. He must have lived in close contact with nature in his place, because here too he tried to know more of Delhi’s wildlife and natural heritage. He loved to photograph the birds and the occasional squirrels that were visible from his window when time permitted. This particular peacock was Alan’s favorite – its colors attracted him.
Representational Image © Kalyan Varma
From the time I first saw the peacock with Alan, I would make sure to either see the royal bird or at least enquire about it, whenever opportunity permitted me to meet Alan. He usually had a bird story to tell me. They were all about what the peacock did or which new bird he saw.
Then one day, Alan told me a story of the peacock – the one that was the strangest of all the stories I had heard so far. I had to believe it because some of it actually made it to the news columns in as far a place as Pune!
A few trees near his office were hacked down to make a new road that would divert and accommodate the extra traffic from the highway. In this process the peacock lost its house. His visits now extended to the spacious deck just below the window of Alan’s cabin. Other peacocks would have also lost their houses, but this particular peacock kept visiting the building most often. No one had been disturbed by the roars of the machines that hacked the trees or those machines that sleepily laid the road, but trouble started when the peacock started singing its usual rain songs. It was too loud and too strange to be mistaken to be the dull murmur of machines that the humans in the office were accustomed to. The rains came and the shy bird sought shelter in the concrete building’s shade. No matter what it did, it couldn’t force the humans to give him his house back. All he could do is screech and yearn and be drenched in the half-sheltering building’s deck.
Alan was still quite new to the way works progressed outside his department. He was a silent observer who tried to understand people around him from a safe distance. People invariantly seemed funny to him.
Office people started complaining to the office administrator about the noise. The administrator was a curious chap. If you gave him a problem he would solve it instantly, but what he could not delve deeper into the problems. So as soon as people complained about the external noise, he was seen fitting noise dampers and wall carpets in the office. For two whole weeks the building was drowned in unbearable noise and dirt. After that the problem was surely solved – but only temporarily!
However, thanks to the efforts, the peacock was more at peace in his new surroundings. No one tried to disturb him. His search for greenery gradually led him to the nicely landscaped garden in front of the building. Given its proximity to people and the highway, the peacock rarely visited it, but it liked the place nevertheless.
Then came the day of the Chief Minister’s visit to the company. The progressive work of the multi-national company had finally attracted the attention of the capital’s leaders. Grand arrangements were done at the building to ensure the perfect reception for the Chief Minister. Media persons were also present – it was a good propaganda for the company.
Although the occasion was grand, the entry of the Chief Minister was to be a silent event for security reasons. It must have been the silent and deserted look of the gardens that attracted the peacock to be present there exactly at the time the CM arrived. No one knew what exactly compelled the shy bird to take flight and miss hurting the CM by a few centimeters. The CM was so startled that he wobbled a few steps, was about to fall, but regained his posture. Everybody maintained their demeanor, except for the camera shutters of the reporters that kept clicking. It was a small incident that would not have caused much commotion. The rest of the event progressed smoothly.
But reporters being reporters, headlines in the evening news flashed – “Peacock startles Chief Minister”. The grand event was side-lined, the appreciable performance of the company was side-lined, the long and inspiring speech of the minister was forgotten, the artists were never mentioned, other important dignitaries present at the event were absent from the news. The peacock was in the limelight. The videographer who happened to record on his camera the peacock making a dash into the minister received heavy pay-cheques.
Some people quoted it to be a security lapse. But how could you punish a bird? How could you make a bird understand that the person it was just about to hurt was the CM? And above all that – it was the national bird – the best of our country! Yet a debate started between the so-called security personnel and nature conservers. In a country where free voice is respected over the artillery of security personnel, the nature conservers prevailed.
A committee was created to decide on why the peacock actually appeared there. Some security personnel even speculated that the bird was sent by terrorists to harm the minister. What Alan had noticed as a silent observer months earlier, the committee reported months later. It was concluded that the road under construction was the root of the problem.
The results were again flashed in the news – “The road that threatened the security of the chief minister!” In a nation that is driven by omens and their significance, the news pointed out that constructing the road any further would lead to bad consequence. After all, it was no less than a Chief Minister’s life!
The construction of the road was stopped. Tree saplings were planted to avoid turning it into a road again. No man walks that path now. Alan still sees the heroic peacock from his window sometimes – it still perches on the deck. He can’t hear its songs until he opens the window. But both of them – Alan and the peacock – now wait for the trees to grow!
Written By Rao Vandana Parankusam, the winner in the WCS-India Wildlife Week Contest.
Vandana is an aerospace engineer by education and a translator by profession. She volunteers for bird counts and animal surveys. She dabbles in sports (triathlon), writing, reading, photography, and making greeting cards. Through her social media activities she encourages parents as well as non-parents to take an innovative and wider approach to parenting.