Decoding Nationalism: The Odisha Boy Who Feeds Peacocks

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Bhubaneswar: At a time when many youngsters may be whiling away their time aimlessly and others may be in quest of material gains, 20-year-old Kanhu Charan Behera is serving a national cause – feeding peacocks in the Peacock Valley at Talagara, near Naraj in Cuttack district.

The youngster’s passion is nothing short of devotion something that he inherited from his grandfather, Pannu Behera, who died in May last year. Sharing his grandfather’s story, Kanhu said, “My grandfather was a Home Guard and used to sit in a dilapidated house near the Naraj-Siddhheswar firing range. During the great cyclone in 1999, a herdsman informed my grandfather that a peacock had been injured. He brought the peacock to the old house and gave it some food. The next day, one peacock and two peahens came to the same place. Pannu fed them also. From then on, the number of peacocks multiplied and they all used to wait for my grandfather to feed them.”

Word got around and Pannu became popular. His story was covered by the media and by 2010, people came to know that Pannu Behera feeds the national bird.

By 2013, Pannu developed asthma and asked his grandson Kahnu to start accompanying him to feed the birds. “One day, he asked me feed the peacocks with him. I saw the bonding between the peacocks and my grandfather. When he called Raja…aaaa….aaaa, nearly 10 to 15 peacocks flocked in front of him. It was an amazing sight for me,” he added.

“My grandfather was admitted to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack. When I went to meet him, he asked about the peacocks. He told me to be there with the peacocks till they finish their food,” Kanhu said. “When he died, we fulfilled his last wish and brought his dead body to the Peacock Valley. As if in mourning, the peacocks stood on both sides of his dead body. After his death, the peacocks did not come to eat for nearly a fortnight,” added Kanhu.

“Then one day, I took over and started calling Raja…aaaa…aaaa like my grandfather and they started coming. Gradually, their number increased,” said Kanhu.

Why Peacock Valley?

On one Sunday morning, I was giving food to the peacocks. As many as 60 to 70 peacocks were present. A group of cyclists came and saw the scene. They called me and asked about my grandfather. They suggested that I give a name to this place. They also asked about my source of income. My grandfather used to feed the peacocks with money from his salary and after retirement, he used his pension for them. But I am a
student.

Many people did not know about the place. One of the cyclists gave this place a name, ‘Peacock Valley’, one-and-a-half year back. We created a group on Google and Facebook to popularise the place. Tourists from France have also visited this place. Now, nearly 117 peacocks come to this valley.

Sounds never affect the peacocks’ arrival

Though the area is a firing range and there is also a poultry research centre here, the peacocks come regularly. The sound of firing does not affect them.

Kanhu’s future

Kanhu manages to take care of the peacocks as well as study. Although he has a job offer, he cannot think compromising his time with peacocks. “I am getting eight-hour job, from 10 am to 6 pm. I cannot hand over my passion to anyone,” he said. “Sometimes I mull over the future. How will I manage their food? My family is supporting me at present. The police personnel who come to practise firing also sometimes give money to arrange food for the peacocks,” he added.

“I am happy that my family is supporting me. My father is a constable in Odisha Police. He gives me money to buy food for the peacocks. No one has asked me to give up this passion. Visitors who come to see the peacocks also donate for their food. The people’s blessings are with me,” said Kanhu.

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