Saturday, April 4, 2009

#13. Of Bats and Bastar

Of Bats and Bastar
Crows caw at night. This I realized in Mumbai. The other of course is bats. That reminds of my days at Bastar in the early nineties of the last(!) century. I sometimes spent nights at Kondagaon rest house which I think is about 70 km from Jagdalpur, the district and divisional headquarters.. The first night I stayed there I heard a lot of bird noise. I wondered which bird could be. In the morning I realised that it was bats and not birds who were making the screeching sound throughout the night. The tiles of the rest house had become almost white with the droppings, and it stank also. There was a fig tree also I forget which one. Probably bengalensis. Incidentally, the bungalows of Collector and the Superintendent of Police were adjacent to each other. SP’s compound had a huge peepul tree (ficus religiosa) which was the abode of lots of bats. Sitting in his lawn, he used to shoot them with a .22 rifle, and very often the dead bats used to fall in Collector’s compound. Needless to say he was least amused.

Incidentally it is said that Bastar is place where the tribals eat everything that moves on the ground or flies in the sky. There are very few birds and even lesser wild animals, in spite of having a number of national parks and sanctuaries. The tribals make a decorative head gear made of the long streamers of racquet-tailed drongo (something like the olive branch round the head of Greek gods). Each such crown uses about one hundred tails. I once asked a tribal what they do with the drongo after cutting their trailing tails. His reply was that they were released. I don’t believe it. But for tree lovers Bastar is a paradise. Shorea robusta groves which are considered sacred and therefore they are intact are a delight to be under their shade, some of the trees would be touching a century.
It is unfortunate that Bastar has fallen into bad days, with the Maoists from the Andhra having made life difficult for everybody.

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