Sabyasachi’s picture of “Vulture – The Fall’ triggered an old memory.
I distinctly remember wearing my canvas shoes for PT; it was surely a balmy Wednesday afternoon. I was in 6th class and was returning home from school.
As I turned round the block towards my home, I saw a small motley crowd. It was a gang of street urchins from our locality. Most of them were of my age. I used to play cricket with them in afternoon. I could make out one of my class mates in the crowd. I was curious; hence I pushed my way in.
My first reaction was that of revulsion. In midst was a strange creature. It was still, it had dark brown coarse exterior and a very narrow neck with loose skin. It was huge; perhaps as big as a large domestic Indian dog. And there was this sickening putrid stink around.
The street urchins were madly, brutally throwing stones and beating the beast with sticks (short & stout bamboo sticks). Most of the aims were for the head which I could not make out.
And then I realized what the creature was!
My classmate informed me (in excitable high-pitched shouts) that it was a Vulture or a “saguna” as in the local Oriya dialect. The “saguna” had to be driven away / killed as it was bad omen. It had to driven away because it was so repulsive.
I was possessed by a macabre desire to join this sadism. I took a stick and started poking it in the head of the vulture. The vulture suddenly jolted from its stillness and moved, which obviously petrified the street urchins and me and we backed out, but again started throwing stones and beating it with longer sticks.
After sometimes I left the scene.
Today, looking back, I am repulsed by my act. Though hardly 11 yrs, I and the gang of urchins had mercilessly battered an animal for two reasons: A – It was appeared repulsive. B – It encroached on our street.
I guess, in some ways, Man today is similar to that gang of street urchins.
The street urchins and I senselessly battered a vulture. Today Man doesn’t wince to destroy / obliterate natural habitat and wildlife.
But somewhere, somehow I changed my perspective. Education and awareness played a role. More importantly the sense of poignancy about the loss of something from our lives changed me. It’s like a loved one whom you take for granted, and one day their loss brings in a void in life. You feel you could have shared more time with them, but it becomes too late. Memories and pictures hardly compensate for their absence.
What drew you to conservation? Would love to hear about that.