Published: 09th August 2018
Why Odisha's 'Junior' Peacock Man wants to dedicate his life to our National bird
Peacocks in the area near Naraj-Siddheswar Firing Range have never had anything to worry about, thanks to the Peacock Man, Panu Behera, and now his grandson, Kanhu Charan Behera
As the grandson of Panu Behera, who earned the title of Peacock Man for taking care of peacocks during the super cyclone that hit Odisha in 1999, you would think that Kanhu Charan Behera must have grown up among peacocks in Naraj, Cuttack as well. But that was not the case (though it eventually came to be). It began when one fine day, the Peacock Man invited Kanhu to accompany him to feed the peacocks and peahens. "He told me, 'Just come with me once. If you don't like it, you can go back immediately.' I went and I haven't stopped going since then," says the 20-year-old. So, it wouldn't be wrong to say that Kanhu has been carrying forward his grandfather's legacy since then.
Kanhu also delivers speeches at the Academy of Commerce Education, Cuttack. He completed his B Com from Raghunathjew Degree College, Cuttack
What started as an effort to feed a few peacocks has now turned into something else. Today, this area near the Naraj-Siddheswar Firing Range, which is about 76 acres of jungle, houses 117 peacocks and all of them are under the care of Kanhu. With just one call of 'Rajaa ah, ah, ah', all the peacocks gather around him and then he proceeds to feed them a mixture of dhal, rice and wheat, twice a day — once at 5 am and again at 3.30 pm. He even walks in the jungle with them and makes it a point to spend considerable time with them every day. "They are my family and of course, I want to spend time with them because I have a lot of love and affection for them," he says.
I won't feel as happy as I do while feeding the peacocks if I am just working and earning an income
Kanhu Charan Behera
Panu Behera used to earn Rs 7,200 while working in the Odisha Police Department and would invest it all in food for the peacocks. Today, it costs as much as Rs 500 per day to feed these birds. While Kanhu manages to put in the amount from his own pocket, the rest is in the form of donations. "My grandfather taught me that I must never feel shy to receive donations for peacocks, which are actually everyone's responsibility because after all, they are our national birds. They are the wealth of the nation," says Kanhu, who also credits his father Vasudev Behera for all the support and encouragement he has been offering.
There are about 3,000 trees in the area and Kanhu hopes to plant 50 to 100 trees a year in a bid to increase the population of peacocks
Many visitors come to see these peacocks on a daily basis, more so during the monsoon, but Kanhu is their constant visitor. Not only is Kanhu close to the peacocks, but they too share a special bond with him. His love for them is evident when he says, "My mother constantly asks me when I'm going to get married, but I understand that if I do, I won't be able to give time to my peacocks, so I keep stalling." He passionately adds, "I can do anything for them. Even if I lose my life in the bargain it's no big deal," and somehow, it doesn't sound overdramatic at all. After all, like he said, they are his family.
For more on him, click on facebook.com/kanhu.