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The Distress of Our Planet

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"Author? Phew!!" I had sniggered at my wife, Reetha, while smearing home-made butter on toast at the breakfast table.

"Ornithologist? Tchha!!" pat had come the retaliation from Reetha, who's not one to take things lying down.

If not a routine, this is a ritual often observed by us since fifteen years of our conjugal life in quest of adding a bit of 'salt' to a hitherto quiet relationship. The only difference, this time, is the venue of our confrontation has shifted from Auckland to Itanagar, my in-laws' place, in India. We are on a vacation to India. Although generally fond of my in-laws, my attraction to this north-western state of India remains the great hornbills, the majestic state bird of Arunachal Pradesh. Reetha remains in her own domain of romanticism and imagination. She calls her genre of books 'psychic-romanticism'; such an odd thing! Yet she sells. Well, on her part, she does not give a damn to Ornithology; often, unfortunately, labelling me a 'bird-watcher'!

Yesterday I was concerned to see Duke, our fourteen-year-old, moving around with an encaged squirrel; about the same time we were exchanging the 'author-ornithologist' pleasantries. Cruelty to animals has always been a source of concern to me. I freed the poor animal immediately and decided to take Duke along in my trip to Eaglenest Sanctuary. So we are here after a pretty long journey that started early in the morning. Reetha has decided to stay back with her mom; you know how the things are with wives' moms.

My tag of Professor with the Auckland University has helped. The authorities have allowed me and Duke to move about a little more freely in the depth of forest; albeit with Luka, the guide, on our trail. We are here for about four hours. It has been an exciting time thus far. We have come across a variety of local fauna including elephants, macaque, and gaur. Even we have spotted a solitary red panda, much to the delight of Duke. And birds? Some exotic varieties like the black stork, pheasants, and white-headed-ibis we have been able to spot. We have had our lunch a little while back sharing it with Luka. There we have developed a liking for Luka. He has the similar passion for jungle as that of mine. We have discussed things like dwindling natural habitats of animals and birds, the unabashed greed of human beings and how they spring on self-sabotaging sprees destroying their own species; let aside other animals and birds.

"Even today I read 'bout the mayhem at Nice in France. What a 'nice' thing to happen at a place called Nice," Luka had smiled wryly. "The poor guys went to enjoy a firework . . . " Luka's voice had choked.

"Sorry, captivating that squirrel, dad," Duke had squeezed my hand. One never knows when the right chord is struck in a person!

Thuk . . . thuk . . . thukk. There comes the distinct sound of axe chopping tree not far from us. An ominous sound of illegal felling of trees! Luka gets busy with his wireless set informing the authorities. It is at this point I hear the screech----- it is, if I am not mistaken, that of a great hornbill! I feel a delightful thud in my heart. So far I have failed to spot this state bird. I knew they are an endangered species and was afraid I would not be able to capture one in my camera. But the screech is that of a scare! I gesture Duke to tiptoe ahead along the chirp.

We do not have to move far. There is the unmistakable sight of the majestic hornbill flapping its wings around a tree-hollow, its nest, and screeching nervously. I can tell that it is an adult male, by its beak and size. It is terrified of the tree-felling around. I remember horridly how I came out of our Auckland-residence one night during an earthquake while Reetha and Duke were asleep. I kept flapping around my house with similar haplessness until the quake subsided. I empathise with the bird.

The chopping sound continues, and a tree grounds with a crash; fluttering of the hornbill increases manifold. I take my snaps. Duke keeps gazing at the nervous bird. I remain absorbed in my own world meanwhile. It is not a question of this particular bird or any species. Actually our planet is undergoing a great spell of distress. It is not meant to bear the steel and concrete structures, it is not meant to be dug and be devoid of its minerals, it is not meant to be deforested and it is neither meant to be polluted the way it is by manmade inventions. Our dear earth has a fever; its temperature is increasing every passing day. The revenge taken by the earth is also evident. Water sources are depleting, natural calamities are on the increase, human beings are destroying each other with their innovative weapons, and diseases due to their own inventions are on the rise. It needs a Herculean effort, a collective goodwill on our part to clear the backlog. Let there be a unified message of peace and brotherhood across the World to stop violence, stop being greedy. We must work in unison; united only we stand.

"Dad! Can't we save the bird?" Duke puts up his childish query.

"I can't, you can't, but collectively we can. Maybe it'll take years of effort."

"I'll make sure that we can, you'll see in the days to come." There is a glitter in his eyes.

I am not sure what Duke is going to make; an ornithologist, or a writer. But one thing I am assured of; he is going to be a good human being!


Author

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Debaprasad Mukherjee


A 57-year-old doctor from Bilaspur, India, has three published books of his own, including a novel BOLTU, and one on the pipeline in addition to having numerous stray publications. He still remains in the wilderness as far as the literary horizon is concerned.


Stories

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Ammi Was Right New

I knew the basics of survival. My mother had already given up on trying to confine my unmanageable bouts of adventure and had resigned instead to teaching me a few life hacks in the hope of preventing my untimely death.

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The Small Big Thing

Ahiliya, the beautiful princess of Magadha, was sitting on the balcony of her palace brooding over her loneliness. She had a score of girls to keep company though. Yet, everything looked so lacklustre.

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Luck and Patience

"There are two lives that can be lived," said Mother Cat to her kittens, "the one you have with me safe at home, nestled in comfort... or ..."

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INGENUITY

Sam does not smoke; at least no more at present. In his boyhood days, he used to inhale an occasional puff or two from a friend maybe, but not now.

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Derailed

It was a regular Friday morning, the last working day of the week. As much as my little princess Ziva, I was also pretty excited about the weekend.

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Child's Unfulfilled Wishes

There was a 12-year-old boy who had a lot of money to spend and enjoy his life. He lived in a mansion like house and studied in one of the best schools in the country.

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Chance Meeting

Let me see dear. Oh yes, I should do. I've lived there for nearly fifty years. Was there anyone in particular you were looking for? I might know them.

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The Epitome of Love

'Handle with care' used to be written on the bottles into which my father poured his finest blends. My brewer father and simpleton mother handled me with utmost care.

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The Clock

First shot for the late Hero... Second shot for the noble mission he died for... Third shot for the honorable corpse he so bravely served... Fourth shot for the departed Martyr.

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Wise Yenzi

Word had come through the mountains, along the long winding trails of our jungle and finally along the river, Yenzi was coming.

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Wrong Turn

It's evening, and we are walking on the beach. The sun is going down, and the sky is so beautiful. She is beautiful too, and laughs like a pixie.Of course, I've never seen or heard a pixie, but I love her.

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Tom and Molly

Molly: Hey Tommy! You, goody-goody! Why on earth you're peeping through the window?

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Eddie To The Rescue

Lou looked up from her school exercise book and looked across at her gorgeous teddy she called Eddie bear.

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The Missing Person

She looked around uncertainly. The station was crowded, how was she supposed to find her daughter amongst the crowds.

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Our Story

Look at this snap, I say. Isn't it so telltale? Doesn't it speak volumes on our closeness? Our relationship could be the subject of a great novel of romances.

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The Wolves

Although it was dangerous, I had no choice. We needed to eat and there was nothing left in our old habitat.

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Messenger of Chance

Life is complex, putting most answers on a spectrum, which I suppose places me between ordinary and special, smack dab in the middle of average.

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Lucky Strike

God! He had been lucky, what if he had not walked back into that place today? Tomorrow would have been a disaster; his life would have changed completely.

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The Docks

The two girls Grace and Charlotte stood watching, fascinated by what they were seeing. Grace put her hand over her mouth to stop herself crying out.

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Magic

The plan chalked out in the morning had nothing to do with birthday plans. They wanted to visit the Forbidden Fortress. It is a place they are told to stay off.

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Little Jackie Pete

Janette was a head and half taller than her sister Susan who stood just in front of her under an arching entrance to an alleyway off the side of a cobbled street.

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The Dragons Of Drakonfell

Scarlet and Ashley had been told not to leave the castle. They stood in the doorway watching something flying overhead. It wasn't all that large as dragons go.

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Joy

"Fred! How are you?" Jim said to the man that had stopped in the street before him. He had been cycling down the road trying to keep warm...

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Gratitude

I can imagine you in a pinny. I've just been up to the cemetery; it would have been Ethel's birthday today so I took her a few flowers.

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The Release

The enormous looking egg sat there with a look of abject horror on its face. A human was trying to take the layer of shell off.

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A New Dawning

Charlie came running out of the woods in the morning mist. When he saw the lake pier, he slowed down to a walking pace.

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My Fair-weather Friends

We trees are pretty awesome. Don't you think so? Just look at me! How blessed I am to have these orange beauties all over me.

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Maisy

His niece turned to her teddy bear. A notebook opened upon her lap. She had been scribbling along pretending she knew how to write.

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The Hitchhiker

He walked along the road, arm out hoping to catch the eye of a passing motorist. It was a lonely stretch of road with trees lining it.

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The Final Stand

Two young girls, one looked to be ten while the other looked no older than six, were running around the tavern with trays over their heads.

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Sitting By The Lake

Darkness in the trees that reflect his mood. A match that will not light. Thoughts that take him far from serenity.

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Lost People

He tried to judge her accent. Possibly Spanish. Definitely another backpacker, like himself. If she wondered about him, she didn't show it.

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Mirage

He pressed his face on the fence very hard. He looked far into the empty street to see if there were any signs of life.

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Fly Away

I was beginning to go stir-crazy being cooped up indoors. All the things you take for granted suddenly became insurmountable mountains.

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Jake's Story

It had started in college. In the summers Jake had worked for a catering company in the resort area south of his hometown.

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Color Blind

I was a mathlete, my teachers always called me the Bell Curve Breaker.

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The Dig

They were camping. It was supposed to be a relaxing break from the hectic pace of the last few weeks.

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Hide And Seek

They say there is no such thing as the Bogeyman. But I know different. And right now we are playing hide and seek.

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Differences

"Why are you staring at the water? We pass by this stream daily and I can't see anything new. Are you ok?"

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The Devil's in the Details

He'd been waiting for hours for God only knows what. Frank wasn't an information guy. They told him to wait here, so here he waited.

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A Wannabe Voyager

"Why did I leave home? Why am I here? Does any of this make sense?" I kept questioning myself over and again.

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The Trail of Two Brothers

"You came all this way just for college?" Cody said to his little brother. Cody looked around himself.

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A Day By The Lake

Father and son were enjoying some quality time together. It was late September but still the weather was nice.

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Life Goes On

"Sometimes it is not the person we miss; it is the feeling you had when you were with them."

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The Message

My romantic nature pondered whether the 'special something' he wanted to buy me would be an engagement ring.

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Swirls

For me, the bridge was a gateway to a new life and for Ryan; the bridge was something he never wanted to cross.

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The Distress of Our Planet

I kept flapping around my house with similar haplessness until the quake subsided. I empathise with the bird.

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The Text

A blonde-haired woman wearing a bright green trench coat walked down the streets of a bustling city, her nose buried in her phone.

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A True Friend Indeed

Rambo came into Maggie's life a couple of weeks ago. The moment she saw him, she fell in love with him.

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Incurable

I lay in the bathtub with my eyes closed. I pressed the straight razor against my wrist.

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A Father's Treasure

"No, not again", I sighed. It has been a routine now to search for my pen in the morning before leaving for work.

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Crossing Over

Yumi couldn't feel her hands. She pushed her fingers through her hair. Nothing. Her heart didn't beat.

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Picture Of A Man That Couldn't

My fingers caressing its strings like they once caressed the only woman's skin that I have ever loved.

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The Fall

No one would give a job to a homeless young man. Prejudices never gave an opportunity for survival for the homeless.

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Gateway To Getaway

If I tell you, 'I've made this bridge', you will laugh at me; because you know me. I have never done anything constructive.

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My Superhero!

I am here at the park; taking a stroll with the person I love the most, My Dad!

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An Everlasting Love

This love started many years ago when they lived in the same neighborhood, a couple of houses away from each other.

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And It Rained

Croaka was pensive as he sat down on the slimy stone near a puddle formed by a steady stream at a corner of Mughal Gardens.

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Follow The Money

It was just past midnight when she arrived at the cordoned off station. There was a yellow Ka parked by the front.

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Long Road Home

Not sure who took that picture, but it's me hitching a ride, my backside anyway, age 17, running away from home.

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The Unfinished Coffee

I am Wahid. I came here nearly 40 years ago. I live in the next street. Are you here with your family?", the old man asked.

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A Fine Evening

It is a typical evening; a cool breeze surrounds the insides of the subway. Never do they notice the intentions of each other.

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Strange Obsession

The cold winter air stung his nostrils as Stephan walked along the brick covered sidewalk next to the tracks.

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The Café

It had started innocently enough; the place had been packed, he had asked if he could share my table. The hour flew by as we started talking.

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My Thumb Leads The Way

Sam was on that lonely stretch of road and he had his thumb leading the way. He was out there all morning.

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Sarah Disappears

What if all the books were worlds, and when she opened one, she opened a door to that world that she could go through? Wouldn't that be awesome?

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Take My Hand

John's wheezed as he ran through the forest. He was a runner, why was he wheezing? Couldn't he outrun his six-year-old?

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A Penny For Your Thoughts

Pete was at a cross roads and he had to make a decision fast or else he was going to lose everything.

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Memories For A Lifetime

The narrow road at the corner is the way to the blissful nature, where one will find true bliss.

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Scars Of A Rose

The fight is over forever. It is all numb now. There is no more pain. Life is setting me free. Let me fly...float in the clouds and forget my wounds.

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What do I have Left?

Marty's number was called and he had to report to Parris Island, South Carolina for 12 weeks of basic training.

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Bruno's Howl

Bruno knew something was wrong long before I did. He was a dog amongst dogs and saw things before anyone else.

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Keeper Of The Logs

The old man makes his first journey at seven in the morning and brings back a pile of logs on his return journey.

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A Newer Dawn

Lake Kaka is one of the nicest as you can see here. It's not large, but beautiful; Miss Caroline calls it 'serene'.

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