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A home for the Water-hen!

June 23, 2012 9 comments

Sales Coach blog has declared a 5-day week for itself – the blog will present 5 articles each week on Sales and associated topics – and on the weekends we will take up other interesting subjects such as Leadership, Nature, People and so on.

Today I present a subject that is extremely close to my heart.

It’s about a creature that I first saw as a child; heading towards the pond for the bath, at my mom’s parental home, we spied this little black bird (with a white patch in the neck and face region) running through the thicket making a funny clucking noise. It was a leaner and smaller version of a chicken, extremely tender and fragile in appearance. But over the years I was to learn that the appearance belied its true character – a truly hardy character that had learned to co-exist with man and put up with all the turbulences we threw in its life. But will we behave likes good neighbours and let it live on among us …..

Malayalis are accumulating assets like there is no tomorrow. There is talk of recession, economic slowdown and loss of jobs, but acquisition of wealth in all forms goes on even against this seemingly dismal backdrop. Purchase of Gold, cars and apartments all show positive trends; and the biggest of them all, building a home of one’s own, is continuing unabated. People are building bigger homes with premium material purchased from across the globe – the number of retailers of imported / luxury home fixtures and accessories has grown manifold. People have money and are living the good life.

You might ask what can be wrong when everything is so hunky-dory!

On the bank of the dirty stream, running through the only unoccupied plot in the area, lives the water-hen family – in the past the stream used to be fed by rain and the natural springs in this low-lying area and the ancestor of these hardy birds ruled the roost. They could live as they pleased – food was plenty and they had large tracts of land to forage from. The entire area was a swamp with patches of deep water and some slushy reed beds; probably some cultivation or fish farming would have been practiced there but it was largely free of human population. There were Grey and Purple Herons, Cormorants hunting for fish in the deeper ponds and sandpipers and plovers keeping company with the Little Egrets and Pond Herons in the shallows. A Brahmni Kite wheeled about in the sky above and a White Collared Kingfisher sat on the Coconut tree, both waiting for an unwary fish to come close the surface of the pond.

And then everything changed! This swamp which once was a few kilometers outside Cochin City is now bang in the middle – rapid urbanization caused quiet fringes such as these to be converted into plots for construction of apartments and villas for the citizenry. As more and more homes were built and all forms of human activity grew in the area the swamp died – the ponds got filled in, and with the habitat disappearing the birds went away. The larger herons and the migratory species such as the sandpipers and plovers stopped frequenting this disturbed patch. The only ones who did not notice were the water-hens; their needs were few and they did not mind having nasty neighbours … big mistake!

The pictures shows the present state of the plot – the stream flows through the area at the further end, under the trees, where you can see the reeds and tubers growing and behind it you can see signs of human habitation. Behind and to either side of where I stood are homes big and small. The fresh water stream has turned into a gutter thanks to the waste from the houses that flank it now.

I usually go past this plot most days during the brisk 5 km evening walk – by then the egrets and pond herons are done with their fishing for the day. The prinias, drongos and mynas that frequent the patch for the rich crop of insects and worms would be back in their roost on a nearby tree. The only sound that one hears is the desperate clucking of the water-hens as they skulk in the undergrowth along the stream. There is nowhere else to go for them – this is home.

This plot, probably couple of acres in size, is being crowded in from all sides. In the near future the swampy and wet patch would probably be filled in and more homes built for Cochinites. Already a dry section at one end is being used by the local youngsters as a shuttle-badminton court and by others as parking space.

The only ones losing the home would be the water-hens – will anyone notice?

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