In which the insanity resumes with a PJ
Captain John Foster of Her Majesty's 21st Engineering Regiment was a troubled man. Newly arrived in the tropics, all manners of ailments beset him. The moment he had stepped off the decks of the P&O steamer in Bombay, this vile country with its heat, sweat, crowds and insects seemed to have begun executing a personal vendetta.
When the regiment was posted to Bangalore, the old timers heaved a sigh of relief. There would be polo, and pig-sticking, and chances of being transferred to fight the Jezails or the Dogras were remote. Besides, the weather would be blessedly English.
Unfortunately for Capt. Foster, his woes did not end. Directly he had arrived in the cantonment, and some enterprising colonel had discovered his special talent for earthworks. Foster was assigned a team of coolies and told to get busy and start building the embankment for the new railway station.
Now they were almost done. Most of the embankment was complete and there remained one last bit where the surface needed leveling. They had to be done by sunset, and the evening shadows were beginning to gather around them. Those strange tropical birds were creating pandemonium in the fig trees, and Foster was beginning to feel the need of a bath and a sundowner at the club.
The problem was that the labourer in charge of this last bit was insanely slow. He would shuffle off to pit from where they were digging, root around listlessly for a bit, and come back with a pitiful basket of earth. No amount of staring or fulminating seemed to make a difference. Perhaps he didn't understand the urgency.
Perhaps he didn't understand English. Shortly after this thought occurred, Foster began to cast about for ways to make his point. Foster was rather taken with his own linguistic abilities. In Bombay, he'd managed to pick up a smidgen of Marathi and Hindi, and he could confidently venture into the fleshpots.
But this was a completely new language, and he hadn't (yet) found an opportunity to test his skills. The time had come. What was that fellow's name again? Ah... He wandered over to the pit. The coolie appeared to be poking at the ground with a shovel, apparently he was trying to tickle Mother Earth.
"Hey! Krishna! Nee begane burrow!!", said Capt. Foster.
Curiously enough, an eminent Haridasa was taking his evening constitutional close at hand.
Ah. That is so much better than senti claptrap. A few other points. This last Saturday, in Hussain Sagar, we saw coots, purple swamphens, black-winged stilts (or so we think), and pheasant-tailed jacanas. Do the rains have anything to do with this? Lots of baby birds as well, blundering around the reed bed.
[Aside: There must be a song to the tune of mere pyaar ka ras zaraa chakhna from Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan, which we can create with "jacana", no?
apne poonch ko thoda oopar rakhna
oh jacana! oh jacana!!
mere paas waali machhli ko chakhna
oh jacana! oh jacana!!
Scope are there, we feel.]
Ah well. Vijay Cavale's excellent IndiaBirds as usual has much better pictures of said coots, swamphens, stilts, and makhnas.
Another point to be noted is that as of this morning, we are utterly thrilled to report the return of the Jedi.
What do you call a medium-sized, colourful, passerine bird with a bladder control problem?
Har har de har.