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This happened last Monday. Out on a morning walk, barely had I turned my lane when I saw a highly unusual sight. Passing by parked cars, three peacocks were strolling up the street as if on an inspection visit.

On the quick I went back home and returned with my camera. The birds were still there; they had done just a couple of houses in my absence and now lingered around a car. Luckily none of the dogs were out and seeing me intent the security guards too stood by and watched. With muted movements I began to click.

The birds walked a steady leisurely pace, clearing small obstacles through casual hops and taking short flights when necessary. One of them would be attracted to explore beyond a compound wall and others too would be infected by the same interest. One by one, then, all three would fly into the enclosed front gardens, peck about here and there and exit as though on common understanding. Soon I began to follow them along parked cars.

At the end of the lane the birds turned the corner. I hurried to reduce the gap but even at my longest, 55mm, I couldn’t get them much bigger. My Nikon D60 offers a focal length range from 18 to 200mm but splits it over two lenses. I should have brought the whole bag.

The birds were now in the semi-built open area of the colony, walking merrily among straws and shrubs. Just beyond was a small park where on the one side I spotted a girl pacing up and down with her notes—you cram good on fresh air—and on the other, playful movements of local dogs. A yoga group was active farther away. Knowing that stray dogs can be real mean and vicious, I began to click in anticipation. When the attack finally came, the birds, rather Chaplin style, were taken completely by surprise. First they stopped alarmed in their tracks, then suddenly changed course to try and escape behind a building. I waited some long, anxious moments but heard no disaster. Good job! The dogs had been given a slip.

But the group had broken up; only one peacock returned while the other two had flown off in some other direction. But surprisingly, he seemed to have already forgotten both, the attack as well as his companions, and was back to his carefree ways. Traipsing among little plants and bushes it suddenly came against a corner, again registered a momentary set back and promptly took off in a vertical flight to land on a first floor balcony. Here it stood turning its neck in all kinds of ways.

Peacock is after all a large bird and since it was now confined, it made sense to change angles of view and, given the handicap of lens, explore even the opposite of what was needed, namely the long shot. Using 18mm, one of the pictures shows the animal hedged between two buildings and a patch of sky, and I think it works. When it finally flew down, it was a longish trajectory and I was able to capture the bird mid-flight in two frames. (Regrettably what couldn’t be captured on my still camera was the jet-like grace and substantial feather sound it made while doing so.)

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But by now I was feeling quite restive and wanted to get close to my subject for a more intimate look. The only way it seemed possible was to somehow surprise the bird and click a few quick ones before it flew off. The opportunity—or at least the promise of an opportunity—came when we found ourselves going parallel along the rear of a row of houses. The peacock kept going unrestricted through the back lane while I walked on the kuccha road, seeing it while it was on an empty plot and quickening the pace when the view was blocked by a built up house. Two houses ahead I knew the lane was ending and if I could wait at the rear corner of the last house, I had my chance.

I waited. And waited. Then stole in to check. It was a clear field. Where was the bird?

I went further inside the back lane and around the corner house but, nothing. The bird had simply vanished.

Not only the dogs, the bird had given even me a slip!

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Looking at the slides you can tell that of the three birds, two are males and one female. None has at this stage a full grown plume. That would grow now during monsoon but, of course, only in the males.

Kapoor sahib once made an interesting observation. He said that in most species, male is more attractive than female. I am not sure if the comment would stand National Geographic scrutiny but he cited many examples. While peacock’s famous plume and iridescent colours is what the bird is known for, peahen is rather bald and ugly by comparison. Likewise chicken. The cock is the one with bright red crown and the hen rather a plain Jane. Similarly, the lion as well as the tiger.

Human beings are a glorious exception, of course! Thank God!

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