On a drive to make this man live. Continuing from
Remember me with a Lotus: Memoirs of Heaven and Birds in Kashmir
Help Save the Birdman of Kashmir: A Fundraiser
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Even though Rasool’s favourite rooster died in old age but his death was not natural. By the time he died, the deepest virtue he attained was patience. And carried the Curiosity of a crow. He was a fighter Cock. And is remembered for his last fight that he fought with the heaviest spy cat on Dal Lake in Kashmir.
The cat would start swimming as soon as the sun would set, from the foothills of the Shankaracharya temple crossing Dal and coming to the backyard of Rasool’s houseboat named Abu and Sheeba. It was said that it was she who inspired a line of dogs to cross the lake to find newer avenues to hunt and eat. But being a cat she would come and take all her time to roam and plan in the longer run her future homes. It was noticed that the chicken count was declining day by day till that one night when she found Rasool’s king rooster standing in front, stopping her way. Ready to fight for his children and three hen wives.
At first the cat wanted to evade it. She had better things to do. But King rooster became adamant. He followed the cat in the dead of the night to the nearby boats. Even waiting for her to come out in the open. She came. It was morning. The time cat would have liked to swim back to the land. But King Rooster didn’t want this to go on for ever. The fight was given. And It was so fierce that all the ducks and a Swan family which were witnessing this once in a lifetime confrontation decided not to cheer or chirp. Thinking of the far future, they kept silent for they knew that the cats can hear even the wind speak. The battle went on for many minutes. As it was the cat who got a surprise of her life in the valor with which the king rooster cracked her first line of defence. She cried in pain. Children came out of the room with blankets on them. From the adjoining boat. Behind Dal where land was used to dock and farm. King Rooster had injured her in the stomach, and punctured her ribs. He would meticulously fly like a baby helicopter and come back standing behind her to attack her from all directions. Her injured ribs robbed her off the sharpness with which she used to move. And It made the cat furious as she kept crying in anger. She would hiss and attack but waited for that moment when he was still in the air about to land again, becoming predictable, in control but not in control. She waited. And the moment rooster came down this time, she threw her front paw from left so fast that it landed on king Rooster’s chest. He fell far and on his back like in the movies. He lost one of his shoulder. He could not stand. The fight was over. The cat left limping.
This battle went down as the most audacious one in the history of Bird Park. King rooster was hailed and acknowledged by the birds and other animals on Dal. The cat was never seen after that night. His popularity now knew no bounds. But as days passed his health deteriorated. And at this time four other cocks who would have never dared to breach the territorial integrity of King rooster’s space came from a nearby farm and attacked him one after other. It was said that these roosters had lost their fights earlier and were thirsty for revenge. Also some wanted to marry one of his three wives. And so it was planned. They came down cruelly on him. It left King Rooster blinded in one eye and eventually resulted in losing his kingdom and his confidence. He started walking strangely. And with it lost his curiosity and slowly appetite. Yet he lived through the summer hard, resting, hiding, escaping, rebuilding again and well. Gradually as time was healing him and had started regaining his lost skin, looking like getting better, healthier. Rasool one day out of nowhere found him upturned, floating dead in the Rasool made lake one morning.
Rasool had ten swans, twelve ducks, four sheeps, three hen and their army of hundreds of children and the King Rooster. Over the years Rasool had tried to keep as many birds but scaled it down as it became hard to provide food for everyone from home. The swans who were loved by all, and who had acquired many names from children and the visitors alike also started dying mysteriously, one by one once I left Rasool’s bird park just before the arrival of winters.
I had come to Srinagar to work on an ongoing project with a channel. When I first met Rasool, he was mentoring and guiding the team, taking them to places in Srinagar to meet and interview people. You can find the link to the seven documentaries here. And cooked for them in the evening before leaving to feed his birds back home.
It was quite late in the night when I first arrived from Delhi. I went into kitchen succumbing to my hunger and found a man fast asleep, sitting. A cigarette hung between his fingers, his mouth open and his suspended jaw as if detached from within was drooping out through his lips. Like an organ hanging in between just like that. He must be tired.
I met Rasool the next morning. Hurriedly making sugar tea. Denying that sugar does anything to the man who works. Leaving everything to the god in his speech. He had diabetes. But took more sugar than I.
Rasool was born under the oldest bridge on Jhelum few months before the Indian independence in 1947. They eventually left that place as the water in Jhelum reduced. The family finally for the first time rowed upstream and came to Dal. One could come and go to all the water bodies as they were connected once. You wouldn’t believe this now. But it will take me another nine months of understanding the ways of Ghulam Rasool. As I kept coming back and forth from Delhi to Srinagar. The time my work finished with the organisation and everyone else left I decided to stay longer to write and document this life or his life for a new Project. Rasool suggested me to stay with him in his only room on the House Boat, just where King Rooster was found dead.
My life was changing, and I didn’t know it. Because for next six months I would be living on water.
I learned to row.
The one who rows is called the Keeper, said Rasool. And the Keeper sits behind, overlooking the boat. Making decisions, just like in life. Rasool taught me to row in theory but made me work hard to find out how. It wasn’t easy to start at all. But once i did, it was me who became his keeper. He would tell me the way and many a nights we would rowed deep inside Dal, through hidden by-lanes and closed markets. Once we were crossing through a never seen before path when Ozzola and Aligator weed grasses arrived making the journey arduous. It was going to be morning. One to remember as the magic blue had started emanating from the dark. No one spoke. We were rowing past, leaving wooden bridges behind that join the floating houses in the older part of Dal when I saw that same cat, swimming her way out of one boat to the other.
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If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste
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Please watch this small film on Rasool, for his Birdpark is important. A Fundraiser film. And let me know what you think.
If you are living in India, you can help Rasool by Supporting/Contributing here
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I will take this opportunity to introduce you to About me and importantly;
As a co-traveller, will take you through the Ten Lessons I learnt from several years on the road, before you coarse on your own Road to Nara.
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You might also like to know about My Little School Project. If you wish to come over for a visit someday, that you must, you will be heartily welcome here
If you would like to contribute to my travels, you can please do so here
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If you have anything to share, or feel like saying a hello, please feel free to write to me at email@example.com
To visit other long-term photographic works, please visit here.