Srinagar: Beating sub-zero temperatures, many Kashmiris can be seen going out at night looking for a right-sized owl that may fetch them a fortune.
Animal rights activists need not worry as the owls are to be caught alive and sold unharmed.
But the buyer is proving to be as elusive as the dream he has sold to the people in the northern parts of J&K.
Villagers say they have heard that they would be paid a staggering Rs 30 lakh (about $68,000) for such a creature.
According to the rumours, the mysterious man looking for the bird wants nothing that weighs less than three kilograms.
"I caught three owls so far but unfortunately none of them weighed more than 800 grams. I am still trying," said a resident of Arhama village in Srinagar district, Abdul Majid Ganai.
For this feat, Ganai had to employ the services of his entire family and even that of his married sister in the nearby village of Haran.
"One of the three owls was caught by my sister's children," he added.
In Chattergul village, also in Srinagar district, villagers are trying every imaginable trick to catch an owl. But the few who have succeeded have not been able to get one that would meet the unseen buyer's condition.
According to Ganai, another villager had given him a mobile phone number to establish contact with the buyer. Ganai refused to divulge the so-called buyer's name or the contact phone number.
"I spoke to the buyer and he told me that the owl was needed for some scientific research and should not be harmed in any way. But only those birds weighing three kilos and above are in demand", he said.
Just no one knows who the dream merchant is. And even by the standards of Kashmir's powerful grapevines, there is nothing to beat this one.
As news of the ‘offer’ spreads, more and more people, especially youngsters, are tying up laces to catch an owl.
Asked whether anybody would really part with such a huge sum of money for an owl, a 27-year-old resident of Gund village, Mushtaq Ahmad, said, "The buyers are saying that some foreign team is interested in the owls. Let me catch a healthy, three-kg owl and the truth would be known".
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)