The HBM Hospital Community Health and Development Project works in the Jhakora and Bar blocks of Lalitpur. I have been doing most of my field visits to the watershed management work in the Bar block.
Most of the land is spare and dry - though we have just had our first rains (and we hope for much more).
On the way to the large village of Bar - which is the block headquarters too - we pass a small barbed wire area which is under the care of the forest department.
One day, my colleagues told me that there were quite a few deer in that forest. I pooh-poohed the thought after a quick look at the small area (perhaps 20-30 acres at most) and the spread out decidous trees. And anyway - it was noon. Which animals would we see at this time in the heat of a late summer day?
Well, I had to eat my thoughts pretty quickly. We soon saw chital deer. And not only one - but more and more.
I clambered out of the jeep and came close to the barbed wire. Sure enough - two young males were doing their thing - butting against each other with their antlers to an enthralled audience.
This was the last thing I expected in a landscape that is heavily farmed or basically rock. Hardly any forest cover to speak of. And yet here are chital deer at noon. Such beautiful creatures.
So when we passed the same area yesterday afternoon, I had my eyes peeled again.
Sure enough, there were chital to be seen, but they were very far away, and we wanted to get to Bar for our meeting. But then I saw an awe-inspiring sight.
A nilgai. The famous 'blue bull'. The largest antelope in the Indian subcontinent. As I came close to the fence, he saw me and started trotting off. Was he alone? No, there was a Nil-gal for the Nil-guy!
She was a bit shy and far off, but looked back at us with her lovely tan face, as Mr. N. trotted over to her and then they both went further back into the trees.
Visions of beauty. Wild life. Oh that we could see more. This world has a lot of space for such creatures. In the middle of a highly humanised land-scape (both lovely and ugly versions) it is a joy to see the grace of our cervine cousins.