Fauna in the city

Update for week ended 10 Jan 2014


It is often amazing to bump into a reptile or sight a colourful bird in a big city like Bombay as it is not an often “bump into”. Well, I am not referring to the 5 common birds that one usually sees flying the skies – pigeons, crows, kites, sparrows and the squealing squawking parakeets (and 1 more for those who live near the sea or the marshy mangroves, the egrets or for those away from it – the common myna.) Nor am I referring to the common domestic gecko that many women (and their “valiant” husbands, too) despise and squeal at. The cool weather in Bombay has brought its turn of “winter” homecomers, like the highly overrated flamingoes (who don’t have the pinkish hue of their East Coast brethren nor the deep crimson of their African cousins. Does this have anything to do with the East Coast that affects the colour, whether in India or Africa). The seagulls are here in plenty and spend a lot of time on the low tide flats and fly around in pretty formation. And if you are near the tidal zone, then you won’t miss the black cormorants, graceful and shiny. I was not surprised to hear the koel (or nightingale), and as I craned my neck to locate the evasive and elusive bird, I saw a brilliant flash of yellow dart across in pairs from one mango tree to another. The weavers are here too. My wife spotted a pair of bulbuls the other day on her evening walk. And we spotted a pair of noisy owls during our evening walks in the residence compound. And these owls did not hoot as the text books expound, but screeched their throats out……. But a quite unusual sighting for me was the reptile. I had parked my car in the basement of my office building and was walking out when in my path was the specimen that I used to see very often as child in a small town by the lake in Africa. We used to call it the bong bongo there. It was about a foot long, but half the length was its tail and local legend was that if you called it by its local name (bongo bongo), it would acknowledge and bob its head in rhythm. And the legend went further to warn people who encountered it in their path (especially children), not to look it in the eye, and if you did – then you had to utter the words bongo bongo repeatedly else the curse would befall you. The curse was blood curdling or rather blood draining….. the bongo bongo could drink the viewer’s blood just by staring at them, from the ground, went the legend. So either you were not on the ground (highly implausible, unless you were a wizard) or you had to suffer that fate. So we would keep yelling bongo bongo, till my parents would think that we had gone bonkers, or were dancing to an old local tune…… . Some adventurous children would quickly loop a string and try to snare the reptile by the tail. But I would never know if they succeeded, because I would have scrammed off. It had a crested head and its scales had an unusual quality. It could change colour to suit the surroundings, especially the medium it stood on. And here it was in front of me on a concrete grey ground – in the colour of its choice, grey. I quickly whipped out the camera phone from my pocket to get a close-up of this unusual fauna sighting in my city, when from the back, walked a security guard blissfully unaware of the blood draining reptile in his path. The reptile darted across to the fence and almost got lost in the scrubs. I threw my arms up in the air and headed to the green coloured fence and tried to look for the bongo bongo in the grassy edge of the fence.


The D Street Boyz reminisced about their childhood fears and perhaps there was a Kenyan D Boy amongst them, as he related the bongo bongo tale to them. The D Boyz and their favourite SENSEX lost or drained out the blood and lost some steam during the week. It was thanks to some distraction in the path, that the bongo bongo dashed across to the green edge of D Street to end the week in the green. So the SENSEX moved down from 21200 (Jan 1) to as low as 20625 on Jan 9 before picking itself up to end at 20758 on Jan 10.


I scrambled out of the building to get to the other side of the fence, which was an open land with tree and shrub cover. And there was the bongo bongo that I just managed to get a picture of (see attached pic). It is sometimes referred to as the common garden lizard and sometimes a chameleon. What was unusual was that it was sighted in a city that does not care for its green spaces and converts verdant marshland into dusty business districts and where an avenue of 20 years or older raintrees die and no-one does anything about it. Even the road medians which sported some green cover have all turned brown, as someone’s watering contract did not get renewed, and the long monsoons have ended. Such is the callousness of the city fathers and yet in this despair, I see hope. I see hope in the bongo bongo and the weaver birds and their master craft, and the barn owls that screech and don’t hoot. I see hope that the raintrees which are not native to India will get replaced by the neems and bargats and aams.





With hope in my heart, here is wishing you all a great year ahead … Cheers…

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