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Odyssey of the Neelkanth in Madhya Pradesh - The beginning

A few phone calls and an impulsive decision had me leaving for Madhya Pradesh on the eve of Dussehra. I was told that my week-long journey would start from Bhopal to witness nature’s abundance as I foray into the forests and sanctuaries of Tawa and Pachmarhi.

Bhopal is eclectic and full on energy on Dussehra. As we drive through the bylanes of the local market and soak in the festivities, I see a cage with this spectacular bird, trapped and ruffling its feathers.

We’re stuck in a jam and I can’t help but admire the striking beauty of this species that I have never seen before. Our driver tells me it’s the Neelkanth or the “blue throat” bird , a name associated with the deity Shiva (who drank poison resulting in the blue throat). It is said to be sacred to Vishnu, and hence caught to be released during festivals such as Dussehra and Durga Puja.

I am, both unnerved and saddened at the plight of the bird as my eyes are fixated on it’s gorgeous colours. The Indian Blue Roller starts fluttering restlessly when no one is around and starts rattling the cage. It has reached its limits of existence, and also weak from starvation. The ornate prison stars moving and within seconds topples down and the tiny gate opens from the shock. Neelkanth fell with the cage but he knows what happened. Without a second thought or wait, it has now reached the skies from the cage.

I am overjoyed beyond relief!

As I look above, in an attempt to spot the Neelkanth, I experience a moment of introspection.

Just like the Neelkanth, this trip to the nature’s haven of MP will be my freedom from the concrete jungle that humankind dwells in. I do not need to look back. I have left nothing behind. There is no regret. I have to run from here as far as possible or they will get me once again. I will fly back into the bounty and the goodness this planet has to offer.

As these thoughts zip through my head, I close my eyes. There is a shine in Neelkanth’s eyes, as he feels the wind tickle his feathers. He does not know where he is going, but he does know that the world outside the cage is home.

The bird is my inspiration and the stories I will narrate through these posts are an ode to our freedom.

About the artist

Artist-storyteller Harshvardhan Kadam is fascinated by surreal landscapes, mystical beings and mythical creatures. His collective, inkbrushnme, with its eclecticism, has produced conceptually and stylistically powerful Visual Art. With conceptual clarity and solidity, he has illustrated many characters in graphic novels, and children’s books.

By Harshvardhan Kadam
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