My first year at NITK was a lesson-of-sorts. Coming straight from the urban jungle, it was at first unnerving to see little black worms with yellow markings all over the place, or watch snakes slither before your very eyes, or stop dead in our tracks maintaining eye-contact with lizard-like snakes or snake-like lizards when we did our laundry.
My first month was spent listening to tales of beautiful peacocks in the vicinity. I never did lay eyes on one until after the mid-sem exams. I did hear tales of wolves and jackals that came out after dark, but those seem to be akin now to tales of the Bogeyman, to make sure we didn’t wander around after block timings.
But second year on, we moved to a different block, and we’ve had no dearth of indoor wildlife since then. Orphaned puppies, kittens all found their way to our doorsteps. Some were occasionally cared for, sometimes with disastrous results – there were tales of someone bathing a kitten with soap and hanging it out to dry… and in some versions, it was a crow. There were innumerable strays too, attracted by the mess food (whoa!). Some apparently got birthday cake et al, and slept in the corridors of the hostel, but after one inmate got bitten, the authorities and we tried to keep those away.
Of course nothing kept Scratchy away… for the uninitiated, Scratchy was our most popular stray, a wolfish-looking, mangy thing with clumps of fur falling off, who died a sad death two days before AdCom. He will be remembered for posterity for licking puke off the corridors, for upturning dustbins and scratching through their contents over weekends, when the Maintenance staff had their weekly off. I never could get a shot of Scratchy; he passed on a month before I got my camera. But Scratchy has enough successors in upturning dustbins… here are a few:
But the true dustbin-upturning successors of Scratchy have to be the crows. I seem to have taken on RK Laxman’s penchant for crows – I snap them day in and day out. Mainly coz they are the only interesting creatures around. Ingenious, too, though not in the same league as Professor Shonkhu’s Corvus, in ripping open carefully-tied packets thrown into the bins. Funnily, the creatures that are so bold that they don’t even fly away when you clap your hands close to them take off at the first sight of a camera! It’s been impossible to get nice close-ups. But I did manage to catch them in action around dustbins a couple of times.
There are other birds around, too. We have pigeons that luckily for us, don’t behave like pigeons in Jhankaar Beats. They are more obsessed with fighting each other, and then making up. And thankfully they don’t come anywhere close to the dustbins.
If you step outside the four walls of the hostel, you’d find a whole host of coucals , better known as crow-pheasants. They aren’t too friendly, but they don’t mind you following them around with a camera, as long as you don’t get too close.
Then there are those really handsome birds to take good-quality pictures of which you need a camera with awesome zoom, coz they roost on very high trees, and they never do swoop down anytime. And they’re as shy as can be. I don’t know what names these birds have
Do tell me if you do recognize them – By the way, the bird in the first picture is actually blue and green. While taking pictures of birds, don’t make the same mistake I made: switch the camera to high colour and high resolution. I do know the names of these three below, though – the first one is a mynah [I need to remind myself to get a few pics of this species in bright light – their orange beaks and the ring around their eyes are a sight to behold], the second is a male koel, the one that sings melodiously, these are also notoriously shy, and the females, which are black speckled with white, are even more so. The third one is my favorite – the racket-tailed drongo. I’d only read about this bird in Tinkle, and had heard that it imitates the cries of other birds. And then I came to NITK… I find quite a few of these. The tail is normally much longer than you see here, with two tailfeathers quite prominently sticking out separately.
And… then we have the Kitten. It hung around for a couple of months, quite a long life for a kitten orphaned not very long after birth. We did take care of it, and no one gave it a bath, thankfully. And then the inevitable happened – it got mauled by the stray dogs. Kittie, R.I.P.