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A STAR IS BORN by Anuradha Dasi

Kirtan, New Vrindaban's newest baby peacock

When WTRF came to do an interview for a piece about New Vrindaban on channel 7’s “Discover West Virginia” program, I had no idea this would be Kirtan the baby peacock’s debut into stardom.  After all, it was meant to be a general documentary, and at the end of the interview, I had just casually mentioned Kirtan’s story…

It all started one day when we were sitting at home chanting japa, and we heard a strange banging, or rather scratching, at the front door. We tried to ignore it, hoping whatever it was would go away, but it didn’t. Finally, overcome by its sheer determination and my own curiosity, I opened the door. To my great surprise, a white peahen was standing there looking at me imploringly and then motioning her head towards a single large egg in the middle of my doormat.

This wasn’t my first experience with peacock eggs. Twice before, we had tried to incubate eggs that were found on our porch, but after weeks in the incubator, all they did was rot. I wasn’t looking forward to that again.  But my husband was hopeful, and he took up the task himself. He set the incubator at a slightly higher temperature and humidity this time, and instead of turning the egg just twice a day, he turned it three or four times. 

After about 4 weeks, my husband woke up at 3:00am to some soft squeaking sounds. He went to the incubator, and there amidst a pile of eggshells was a wobbly ball of downy fluff with lanky legs, a scrunched-up beak, and two beady little eyes. I was overjoyed, but now we had to figure out how to take care of him. After consulting Raghu and Malati, our peacock caretakers, and watching multiple YouTube videos, we gained a little confidence. 

As happy as we were that our peacock was born, I must admit that by day two, he was driving me nuts with the noise he would make. It was an incessant high-pitched “Piu! Piu! Piu!” that penetrated the ears and went straight to the nerves. The only way I could tolerate it was to tell myself that it was kirtan – he was chanting to glorify the Lord in his own way. And that’s how he got his name. Being a gender-neutral name, Kirtan worked well since we didn’t know yet if he was a boy or a girl. 

Soon later, Raghu and his daughter Padma told us that baby birds need to be kept warm and snug, and the best way to do that is to tie a belt around your shirt and keep him inside. It’s like being under the mother bird’s wing, he said. So, we took turns being mother birds for several hours a day, and whenever Kirtan was inside one of our shirts, he was happy and quiet. While sitting, we would hold him tightly with our hands, and this also made him feel peaceful. 

Although for the first 10 days, I didn’t take Kirtan out of the house at all, from the moment he was born, people would come to see him. He had a feisty nature and was relentlessly active, much to the delight of his guests. By day three, he was flying out of his cage, and he would spend hours each day just running and jumping around the room. At last, he would get tired and take a nap, then wake up and start running and jumping again. It was like he was in flying school and was putting himself through disciplined training.

After 10 days, I started taking him out on the grass and having him forage around for food. From 12 days on, I would take him to the temple and let him play on the grass. People would naturally want to hold him, play with him, feed him, and get their picture taken. And Kirtan was not one to disappoint. In fact, he got so used to people that he thinks he’s more human than bird!

Kirtan is seven weeks old now and has started developing green and blue feathers. He’ll fly up on your shoulder and eat out of your hand, but he still likes to be cuddled. We’ve built a cage for him on our porch to protect him from nocturnal predators like racoons. Sometimes peacocks will come to the porch and hang out with him, but he has yet to integrate into New Vrindaban’s free-spirited peacock community. Our intention is to keep him protected until he can defend himself or until he can fly up into a tree, then we’ll take it from there. 

We’re not sure what Kirtan’s future will look like, but for now, he’s living a comfortable life, and he’s also comforting us. You see, we were already struggling in many ways due to the Covid-19 pandemic, then, on Tuesday, June 11, one of our revered priests Venkatachalapati Prabhu tragically took his own life, sending waves of shock, confusion, and blame throughout the community. The next day, two beautiful Krishna Tulasi plants sprouted in our seeding bed, and on the third day, Kirtan was born. By allowing us to serve as his foster parents, he has also fostered us through this difficult period. He has taught us that although there may be many struggles in life, Krishna never gives us a challenge that we cannot handle. And sometimes it’s the little things that give us the strength to carry on. In this case, one cute baby bird has brought back life to a community in mourning. 

This was the message that touched the heart of the interviewer. And so, although it was not the original intention, the 30-second news clip that was screened just a few days after the interview focused on Kirtan, the little peacock who brought us a lot of happiness. A syndicate station picked up the screening, and it was run in other parts of the country as far away as California. I can’t help but to feel a little motherly pride – my Kirtan has become a star!

Now I pray that he becomes a star of hope in this darkened world. In these troubled times, we can remain positive by looking for the little things in our lives that make them worth living, that give us hope for a brighter future. Krishna has blessed us all in so many ways, but it requires eyes of gratitude to see them. What better time than the present to look around, and to look within, and ask ourselves: What is my Kirtan?


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