I was sipping at hot tea and looking out of the window yesterday mid-morning at around 10:30 AM. It had been a dull day so far. I was supposed to have gone for a practise run to the National Park in preparation for the Standard Chartered Half Marathon event with friends early morning. Instead I was in bed nursing a vicious cold with hot tea, hot milk, good old paracetamol, hot ajwain and what not…
Then I thought I might as well play around with my new camera to amuse myself, since I had a long day ahead. So out came all the gear. I sat on the window sill and gazed outside for subjects. The corner of the building, which is right in front of our building, is the favorite perch of Black Kites. It’s also the first place that my eyes automatically seek out when I am at the window. But there was no Black Kite perched there.
Now usually during the day, there are about 2-3 Black Kites always hovering around the place, since there is a garbage collection area on the road below. But instead of the usual number, yesterday there were 20-25 Black Kites all circling around the spot and occasionally calling to each other. It seemed they had found something to eat. Since Black Kites are scavengers, I peered at the garbage cans, but they had been emptied by the collection van the previous night. I couldn’t spot anything out of the ordinary there…not even a dead rat or any other injured animal.
I called Ujwal to come to the window to take a look at the Kites. He took one look and agreed that it was unusual behaviour on their part. Then he spotted it! Our window overlooks the row of barrack accommodation units of the police camp area on the opposite side of the road. Now between two barracks, there were a few trees, whose branches rested on the sloping roof. In between the branches of one tree, there seemed to be dark shadow. Ujwal thought there was something there.
I couldn’t see anything though and got out the binoculars to get a better look. At first, there was nothing. Then after about 5 minutes of gazing, something moved and sure enough, there seemed to be a bird there. After a few more minutes, Ujwal with his super sharp eyesight said that it seemed to be a Black Kite itself. I clicked a few pictures and hurriedly transferred them to my computer. He was right. It was a Black Kite. We watched it through the binoculars for some more time. It seemed to be injured and trapped in something. After every few minutes, it seemed to be making an attempt to fly, but couldn’t. And the other Kites circling around seemed to be keeping a watch over him.
From six floors above, the barrack roof seemed quite reachable. I looked at Ujwal and said, “Let’s do something about it”. He said YES! I rejoiced like he had accepted my wedding proposal and off we rushed. We entered the police camp and reached the spot where we thought the bird was. Ujwal climbed on the low ledge of wall of the opposite barrack holding onto the window grill and looked up. Bingo! He could see the Black Kite. One of its wings seemed to be entangled in a kite thread and held up. I took my turn to see it.
We then surveyed the surroundings. None of the trees around could be climbed on to reach the roof. They were too frail to support our weight. There was a grill outside the windows and a ledge above the grill. We could maybe use the grill and climb onto the ledge. But then there was a distance between the ledge and the roof too which was a little risky to venture. What we needed was a ladder. After explaining the situation to the residents around, we asked them for a ladder. But they suggested that we call the fire brigade for help. We tried that out, but they seemed reluctant to despatch resources for rescuing a bird from the height of first floor. They suggested that we use a bamboo stick to dislodge the thread even though we explained that we could barely see the bird from the ground and so it was not possible to do that.
In the meanwhile, we had thought of another person who could help. The previous year, when we were walking around the police camp for completing my course assignment (Leadership in Biodiversity Conservation) we had met Yogendra. Yogendra works in the police force and is also a nature enthusiast. He was at that time studying Spiders in the area and had showed us around the place. We had exchanged numbers, but had not met again since then. We called him up and filled him in on the details. Luckily he was around and promised to reach the spot in about half an hour or so.
And sure enough, he showed up soon. We pointed out the where-abouts of the bird and were just starting to suggest how he could maybe climb up using the grill, when we stopped… I was gazing open-mouthed with my eyes almost popping out and Ujwal was also stunned. We had seen it in movies, heck we had even seen the guys doing some fancy stuff in the gym, but to see it live in action was something else.
In a trice, Yogendra had jumped and held on the window ledge that he could not even reach while standing and shinned upto the roof. Within minutes, the bird was free of the thread and he had jumped down, holding on to the big bird with one hand. My first question when I recovered from the shock was, “how did you do that? “ Yogendra asked, “What?” I asked “Climb up like that!” He just smiled and answered, “Commando Training” And I thought, with Mumbai Police, we sure know now that we are in strong hands.
I of course couldn’t resist holding the beautiful creature and since it was not bleeding or very badly injured, I took it in my hands carefully avoiding its sharp talons as guided by Yogendra. Black Kites look magnificent while flying, but upclose they look even better. It has beautiful brown eyes and you can see its amazing plumage. It didn’t flutter like a pigeon when held, but gazed back alertly when we looked at it.
We then called the NGO – Ahimsa and they came around later to collect the bird. Today’s update on the bird from them is that it will probably be able to fly away by tomorrow.
This Black Kite was just one of the thousands of birds that get injured every year because of the kite threads. And it’s not just the birds. Even humans get hurt every year by glass threads. I don’t know what it would take for people to realise the simple thing, that festivals can be easily celebrated in a way that no one is hurt.
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