MUMBAI Amrish Puri Chowk in Juhu, Mumbai, houses some of Bollywood’s best-known names. These include, among others, Amitabh Bachchan, the Deols and the family of the late actor after whom the chowk is named. But there is a group of little-known residents here whose presence remains a mystery—Indian peafowl.
Over 30 of these national birds, both male and female, and at least one of them white, have found a home in this populated part of the city. According to locals, a certain Mohammed who lives in an apartment in the area probably brought the birds here. He also owns some exotic parrots. But when approached, he refused to speak about the birds.
The parrots are in large cages in Mohammed’s house. The peacocks hop around roofs, walls and branches of trees. They also explore open spaces in the bungalows around. Often, one sees them on the road. Vijay S Jaiswal, a 44-year-old resident of the area, first noticed around five peafowl some 25 years ago. “No one knew where they came from. They were all there one fine day. People started feeding them and over the years, their numbers increased,” he says.
Researchers are surprised by their presence. Atul Sathe, a researcher and communications manager at Bombay Natural History Society, an NGO engaged in conservation and biodiversity research, says, “Peacocks and peahens are only found in forest areas. Some live close to human habitation, but only when large spaces and forest areas are nearby. To have peacocks bang in the middle of the city is unusual.” Sathe reckons a resident must have brought them as pets—which is illegal—and let them loose. He has also heard of peacock sightings in Girgaum and Malabar Hills, most likely escaped pets.
Residents are not complaining. Bachchan once posted a photo of a peacock in his balcony. Asif Ali, a 27-year-old local, tells another story. A few years ago, when a peacock was atop his roof, a big car stopped. The occupant wanted a closer look at the bird. It was actor Govinda.▪