There is famous piece of poetry in Urdu that says, “Har shaakh pe Ullu baithe h, Anjam-e-Gulista kya hoga.” (Owls sit on each branch, I fear for the fate of my beautiful country–that it would turn into ruins).
I had assumed, considering owls as a harbinger of bad luck was a common misunderstanding in India against the gentle creature, who does nothing but sleep all day and hoot sweetly at night. My belief was further strengthened when I saw a couple of Spotted Owlets on the tree next door. They are wee creatures, barely 8 inches, sitting in the tree hooting serenely or sleeping on the electric wires across the road.
One evening while I was walking up the stairs to the roof, I heard a weird screech. I had been hearing this screech ever since my first night here five years back. It gave me goosebumps everytime, and had reminded me of witches, giving me too many nightmares. Gradually, I had assumed that it was a Night Heron along the banks of Yamuna river or something on similar lines, but definitely far away, and definitely huge.
Hearing this screech, Curiosity propelled me up the stairs in half the time and I opened the door to the roof silently. Surprise! There was this eight-inch creature sitting on a pole. He was screeching at the top of his lungs until his friend flew out of the tree to meet him. He saw me, and flew away to party with his companion.
Well, so much for being gentle…I can now see how Owls earned their reputation in India! They are Dr Jakyll by the day, and Mr Hyde at night.
There he goes again…
There go my goosebumps again…