The untold story of Payal: catharsis for the family

Author: 
Pragnya Mishra

Pragnya Mishra is an M.Phil. in Anthropology from Utkal University. She also has a post graduation diploma in Rural Management from Xavier Insitute of Management (XIM), Bhubaneswar. Pragnya worked for two years as Research Associate with XIM. She later joined the Agricultural Finance Corporation but quit her job to raise her children.

Pragnya currently lives in South Africa with her family. Her three children, a daughter and twin boys, attend school in Johannesburg.

Pragnya is active on social media and is highly respected by her friends and well-wishers.

It was in the late nineteen seventies. My father, Shri R.K. Mishra, was posted in Gunpur, Koraput. Gunpur is a municipality and one of the sub-divisional headquarters of Ryagada district of Odisha.

The outskirts of Gunpur were completely covered by forest and hills. My memory is faint as I was a small kid then, yet to join school.

My parents had two beautiful pet peacocks: Payal and Jhankar. The duo was probably rescued from the nearby dense jungle.

Jhankar was a peahen. Payal, though a male was named Payal because of two ghungroos that he wore on his legs. Payal used to walk majestically all over our huge front verandah with that chhum chhum sound. He was as affectionate as a human. We loved him too.

 
Peacock
 

Due to dense jungle, Gunpur was home to a large variety of snakes. Daily, we used to witness hundreds of them roaming freely on our verandah.

We had a big garden as well but it used to look like more of a jungle with trees bushes and shrubs all over the area, rather than a garden. I still remember, snakes jumping straight from the trees to our verandah. To be able watch snakes flying in your front yard is a rare sight indeed.

Payal and Jhankar played games designed by themselves. Sometimes they would hide themselves in cupboards, sometimes in our prayer room. Thus, they were around our house all the time.

That was the reason why the family adopted Payal and Jhankar. Also, it is widely believed that peacocks would not allow the snakes to live within their territory. Though we don't remember any of them chasing snakes but their sheer presence used to make us more comfortable.

Payal was very fond of my father. Payal used to chase my father's jeep till he reached his office. Then Payal would wait on the rooftop till afternoon. It was a mesmerizing scene to watch him flying over the jeep.

 
Peacock
 

Payal would also respond to his name. When called out called by name, he would walk over promptly and with ghungroo sound to make his presence felt.

Both of them would sleep on the roof top even though they had a house of their own in the verandah itself. It was a big basket made of bamboo. My siblings and I were so much attached to them.

After two years, my father was transferred to Bhubaneswar. As Bhubaneswar is a big town, it was not possible to keep the peacocks in the house. My father decided to send them to his native place, his own village, which was just 60 km away from Bhubaneswar.

Payal and Jhankar travelled all the way to Bhubaneswar with us and then sent to our village. They were to be in the care of one of my uncles in the village.

Two months passed and we assumed that they had settled in the new environment.

One day out of the blue, Uncle informed us that Jhankar had been killed by some nearby villagers. They had mistaken her as a junglefowl. Payal was devastated after Jhankar’s death. He stopped eating and playing and within 15 days of Jhankar’s death Payal also died.

It was not that they were our only pets. We kept cats, parrots and dogs as pets but they were all adopted by me, going against the wishes of my parents.

My parents could not reconcile to the loss of the two peacocks. Their troubled psychology of not doing justice to Payal and Jhankar prevented them to adopt any more pets.

My mother feels strongly that if one can’t take care of pets like the way one takes care of one’s own children then it’s better not to keep any animals or birds as pets.

Four decades have gone by after this incident. Their story is being told and retold many times.

But what we couldn't change is the end of this story. Story remained the same and so was the guilt.
As saying goes that if something which is troubling then it should be released, as a sort of catharsis.

This something has been troubling my mother for years. Unable to express her own guilt mixed emotions, she requested me to pen down the story and share it with the world. Though I am sure it wouldn’t make her less guilty but a confession can perhaps make her feel better.

As I pen down the story of Payal and Jhankar I feel perhaps they could have been rescued on time. Perhaps my parents could have left them in Gunpur jungle itself. Perhaps they could have handed over them to the Nandankan zoo.

So many perhaps but the end remains the same. I am sure they must have cried, missed their owners. They must have screamed in the last moments of their life to see us. But neither their voice could reach us nor we.

They died just once but we have died a thousand times ever since with the guilt.

Comments

It's always devastating to loose your own pet, be it a peacock or a calf. I had a peacock, back in the eightees and it was really a charm to see how he responded to our calls. He was so fond of eating coconut pieces that whenever my mother or sister used to shred the coconut , he would appear from nowhere and eat a lot of it. Unfortunately it was killed by a dog one day and it died in my hands when I rescued it from the dog. That was too Terrible and shocking ! I still remember when he closed his eyes on my hands. I cried a lot on that day. We also had some cows at my Father's official quarter and vI was looking after them. I used to spend a lot of time with them, sitting with them and feeding them. When my father retired from his job, we had to hand over them to someone of my father's office. News came later on, how they were unhappy and died one after another. I usually don't express my pain in public but I'm still living with it. We didn't have enough area in our residence to accommodate them. That's why we had to hand over them to someone. But it always gave me an agonised feeling that I couldn't give them justice. They were so innocent !
Still we have pets, now my son is taking care of a dog, Ashley. Two beautiful bulbuls are coming every year during rainy season to make their nests in our balcony. We've a flower horn who understands what we say to him. But I'm not getting attached to anyone as I used to be earlier.

Thank you Shiva

I had never heard of peacocks as family pets. Perhaps those days are gone when there were so many peacocks around homes.

Whole of Koraput is a jungle.so it's easy to keep Peacocks as pet

Really very sorry for their loss.. Thanks it also remind me my childhood time in Gunpur and those snakes .. But I don't digest why those villagers did this cruelty I think those illiterate villagers don't know about pets. Really I enjoyed the story and about Gunpur. Try to post some more 😉😉😉

Sure Lingraj ji.. tx for the appreciation

Very poignant story. Made me remember a very painful incident of my childhood. When I was six years old, we had a white dog then aged about twelve years. I was very fond of him. Suddenly, it started losing it's vision and in about six months, he became blind. He woeld then collide with everything and fall down. One day, some stray dogs attacked him and badly wounded him. Wounds festered despite medical attention given too him. One day, seeing him in great agony, my father shot him dead. I was not convinced with the justification for ending his life. I wept and wept. To assuage my sadness, the theory of rebirth was explained to me. I was told that he had instantly reincarnated as a beautiful puppy. Nevertheless I took several years to forget him. I can empathise with Pragya,'s mother.
Jogendra Singh

I can understand your pain. Thank you so much for the appreciation

The peacocks died only once but indeed painful to die thousand times over the guilt of their dying. Great narration indeed.

Thank you so much Sir

Heart touching description. I also had a dog called 'Tashu'. She was very affectionate. In 90ies, I used to listen BBC London on radio. She knew the sound and the timings of the news. During BBC news, I used to do walk with her, as at that time my area was very open and I was preparing for Civil Services. BBC was a big source of GK. I got transferred to Kota, she died within a year. She suffered arthritis, as her walking suffered after my transfer.
At the time of her death, I was not with her. My younger son daily tells me for a pet dog. But neither I can forget Tashu nor can see death of a pet.

Ya even my mom couldn't keep any pet after that. Thanx for sharing it.

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