Headline March 23, 2016/ ''' STUDENTS * SWAN * SERENADE "'


IN 1958, AROUND 6 AM PAST, just as I was dragging myself, unwilling to school, I heard-

A loud thud   -in the huge courtyard compound of the hospital, where we lived, and where my saintly father-  Dr Mohammed Akber Khan Hashmi Querishi, was a re-known surgeon. 

A whooper had flat spin-ed itself to a crash landing. And overhead, the leader of the flock, began squawking messages and wails, while taking the formation through a loose 360 degrees turn.

My father, -summoned, set about diagnosing it. At the Convent school, Risalpur, [in  KPK province of Pakistan],  - a dull drab, God forsaken place, the word began to spread, as soon as I got to school.  

Just about the whole school,  in turn, came over to take a look. So, I soon began issuing health bulletins in the morning assembly.

Mother Anne, the Irish school principal, and Sister Rozario, finding the school abuzz with this happening,  set about a special class to teach us all about the migratory birds. 

''Duress'', as the whooper got named by Mother Anne,, was nursed back to health and became a member of the huge household. We soon found *Duress* to have an unquenchable, special fondness for watermelons.

Next migratory season, the leader found the exact co-ordinates, and squawked........ *Duress*  squawked back, and the back and forth continued as the formation circled.

And then with a huge effort, *Duress*  got airborne, circled the hospital twice,  -my mother explained, to thank us all,  and joined the flock. Leaving the school aghast,when the news spread........and  us all in tears.

WITH ITS MASSIVE WINGSPAN  -the whooper swan is a jumbo jet in the avian fleet of waterfowl.

By turns angelic in flight, flashy in a display of triumph, stately in tucked-in repose,  it is elegance at the wing-

A bird to inspire flights of fancy.

From the swirl of its initial letter to its sighing vowel and feather-soft final consonant, the very word   ''swan''  -suggests grace. Peter IIich Tehaikoysky did not, after all, write  Duck Pond.

The whooper swan, like its onomatopoeic cousins, the whistling and the trumpeter, belongs to an elegant society of sisters, the mute, Bewick's, black, and black-necked fill out the ranks.

First described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758,  Cygnus cygnus   can be considered a  swan among swans,  the type species, hence archetype, of all swans. It is also a swan of superlatives.

Whooper swans take off mostly on water, but can do so on solid ground, using a short run and beating their massive wings, which span almost two and half metres, to achieve their liftoff.

Not only are they occasionally high fliers   - a flock was once spotted by a pilot at an altitude of  8,200  meters  -but their migratory flights can amount to a marathon.

One route, the  1287 -kilometre- long flight from Iceland to Ireland  -is likely the longest sea crossing by any swan species

With a population of about 180,000, the whooper, though vulnerable to loss of habitat, is among the most abundant of swans and trumps others in the sweep of its range.

To the ancients, the appearance of a swan, with its effortless glide on the mirror of a lake and lovely, unfurling flight, signalled evanescence and evoked immortal longings. 

Socrates, Plato tells us, heard the song of a swan on the day of his death.

The Valkyries, in the guise of swans, bore their fallen heroes to the Valhalla of Norse mythology. Pythagoras believed the souls of poets passed into swans,  a fitting entombment that turns the tattered phrase  ''poetry in motion''  into a truly lyrical trope.

*The swan, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova writes,  ''floats through the countries''  and into the turning wheel of seasons. Swans on their autumnal migratory flight   -the celestial flutter of wings, the silver arrow of a flock splitting the sky  -evoke poetic melancholy.

Shadows lengthen. Days shorten. Another year closes in. Still, there is reassuring uplift of fairy tales like Hans Christian Andersen's duckling turned swan, with its metamorphosis from plain to princely.

These birds loveliness masks the toll exacted by the gravitational pull of their large bodies and the strain of daily survival.

Laboured takeoffs, the frantic paddling of webbed feet and heavy beating of wings before their soaring ascent, a territorial aggressiveness directed at other swans and waterfowl that can turn vicious and, occasionally deadly-

*Suggests that beauty does not come as easily or kindly as we might wish*. 

With respectful dedication, to all the watchers, lovers and admirers of wild life. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and the Ecosystem 2011:

''' L'Invitation Au Voyage.'''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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