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The grass is greener on the other bank


Greater Coucal, Coorg


We’ve all known those perennially unsatisfied people who complain about everything, reminding us of the saying, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’. In Coorg however, the saying takes on quite a literal perspective. Here, in the mystic hills, lives a bird that has given rise to many legends – the Greater Coucal, or the Crow Pheasant. Foremost is the belief surrounding the Coucal’s nest. Local lore has it that this nest contains a small magical grass that contains great healing properties that are unleashed only when the nest is thrown into a stream. On being thrown in, the ‘magical’ grass in the nest makes its move and makes the nest float upstream, against the flow of water…and reason. Sometime during this voyage of the grass to a greener shore, much like the salmon that swim up-river to become bear food, it is expertly pouched by the tribals for making healing potions. This perhaps explains why the Coucal takes great care to hide its nest in extremely inaccessible places. The bird itself is reputed to be blessed by the spirits, and its call is associated with omens and portents. In Coorg, its local name is Chombuka, or a ‘good luck’ bird for those fortunate enough to sight it. The sighting is not unduly difficult, as these large birds of the Cuckoo family are weak flyers and can be spotted pottering around in the abundant vegetation, foraging for insects, eggs, small vertebrates and other nestlings. Chances are that they’re hunting for a suitable titbit to take back to a lady friend as a courtship gift, knowing well that the way to Madame Coucal’s heart is through her stomach. If it works out, our friend will be most likely busy the next few days foraging for the ingredients for a brand new nest…especially a magical grass with a mind of its own.


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