August 2020. We were out on our routine weekend morning walk. A long customary leisure stretch. The corona wave was achieving higher turfs in its surge. My father decided to relocate our family to our holiday home in Naukuchiatal, very well in time, back in March 2020 right after WHO declared Corona a pandemic. Virtual schooling, lockdowns and a physically confined lifestyle in times to come was a foresight in hindsight. I have been living in the periphery of the Corbett forest eversince, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Our rustic cottage overlooks the ‘tal’, the nine cornered lake and is lined by many secluded tracks allowing us to enjoy our nature walks.
The sun brightly grazed the green blades of grass, glistening the pearls of dew. We turned into the dusty track circumferencing the cottage, into a back lane. The sunlight was intermittent with the shade of the towering hills lining the horizon. Being a city dweller, I have lived so close to nature for such a long span of time, for the first time in my life.
The rays of the sun breezed past the trees, orchestrating the leaves to a sweet rustle. The whistling thrush chimed its unparalleled notes. The red leaves crunched on the ground as I walked through them, through the narrow dusty path of the forest. On one hand was a metallic barbed wire, lining the path, instilling a sense of safety in my mind walking past this territory of a leopard. It yielded a contrasting view on the other side of the narrow path where the breathtaking mountains displayed an arena of shades of lush green, the lake below and the bluebird expanse of skies above instilling freedom.
Obstacles on the journey of a path can often transform into stepping stones and milestones thereof.
As we walked down, we stumbled across an unusual sight. It was a brown creature, drawn in and refuged under the niche of a branch of a tree. My father, and avid wildlife enthusiast, realised that it was a brown wood owl in a state of hurt. It sat still, vulnerable and agonised with pain. A rather formidable size in stark contrast to its vulnerable disposition. The owl had been injured. We stood there, at an appropriate distance wondering what to do. My father called up his friend, a birder. He then also called up his close acquaintance, a forest officer from Corbett who always accompanies him on his regular safaris to Corbett. It was only a matter of minutes when he also arranged for the forest guards to come in from the closest rescue centre. Only, that the centre was 3 hours away.
The next task was to ensure that the owl wasn't abandoned and succumbed as a helpless prey to any other animal at this point of time. The owl was very weak and motionless.
I had unwittingly found myself in a real situation. A real time ‘save the planet’ situation
From what appeared it seemed that the creeper laden metallic barrier was misperceived by the bird and had caused an injury on its foot and wing. I stayed there. Frozen. Numb. The very thing which i had earlier perceived to give a sense of warmth, comfort and safety caused harm to another being. Another being who was created to soar the skies, freely. Hunt. live. I realised that I had it all wrong. I didn’t need a barrier to protect myself from animals, the animals needed a barrier to be protected from me and all of humans. the humans who have lost their humanity.
The least i could do at the moment was bring food for the poor creature who had been injured since the night before. Call the rescue centre. We stayed with the bird for more than 4 hours making sure that a leopard or an eagle doesn’t decide to devour the bird.
My father brought meat to feed the bird. A villager chimed in by giving his dog cage. We gently lifted the bird using a bed sheet, and put in the cage. In the hope that it would prevent it from becoming prey. The Ranikhet rescue centre sent across 2 forest officials on a bike, which wasn’t big enough for fitting the cage. In my fathers car the cage was put and the bird taken to the rescue center for healing and recovery.