When I was brought home, everybody had rushed out to fawn over me. Ever since, it was all the way downhill for me. For years, I was the most abused creature in existence–people walked all over me. They threw things at me without faintest sign of remorse. In fact, one rainy day, when water seeped in from the windows, I was left to shiver in cold. Nobody thought of mopping me up until the next morning!
Now that I am old and frayed at the edges, they’ve left me out for the garbage truck to pick up. Life is so unfair!
It is slightly stuffy but it is home and I love it. There is a lot of room to walk around and food hangs from the sealing everywhere. It is rather dark for the lack of sunlight, but who needs to see anyway. It is unsafe on the surface, what with all the sunlight and the monsters that roam the earth. I hardly go up except when stormwater floods the tunnels. My life is quiet but safe. It’s a lonely existence but company is overrated.
She wanted a ‘life of adventure’. I had assumed she would see the fault in her ways and return to our molehill. Afterall, who likes to eat from dustbins when they can get fresh roots? But…
Sometimes, I walk to where my tunnel runs beneath the nest she built with an uncouth rat and hear the soft pattering of little feet that are her proginy. Those are the moments when I wonder if a life of adventure wasn’t as bad.
I picked up the flower that had fallen from her hair. It still held her fragrance.
Ever since she moved here, I followed her around, hoping she would look at me and never look away. Often, I would walk behind her, right past her, in front of her…
But she seemed to look right through me.
Then, this guy came and held her from behind. She squealed in terror. Naturally, I attacked him. But instead of supporting her saviour, she hit me with a stick and called me a ‘stupid bird’! Worse still, she kissed him!
My mom always said, “Never judge a bird by its feather.” So when the time came for building a nest, I thought I’ll give humans a chance. I didn’t like judging them based on their feathers, or the lack thereof. I am not really averse to humans…just a little wary because they are so large and uncoordinated. They flap their wings all day for no reason but never take flight. Though, some credit is due because they continue trying. They never really give up, unlike most other creatures who are now using their wings to walk.
I also appreciate the way their trees are always breezy. I often sit on the branches of their open window and the breeze is just there when there is none outside. Someone told me it is because of the three-legged sloth that hangs from the top of their tree and the breeze comes when it moves round and round. I tried talking to one of them if it was true but he seemed a quiet one.
Well, it’s hot right now and I don’t fancy staying outside in the sun while sitting on the eggs. So, when I started property hunting for a nest, I thought I’ll build it inside one of these breezy hollow trees. A couple of mynas referred me to this tree mentioning that the resident humans were rather gentle on other creatures ever since the last revolution and their recent treaty with the resident mice, spiders, bees and wasps. Also, they had mentioned that the owners offered free food to feathered neighbours. All this seemed rather too good to believe. But again, I wasn’t judging them yet. So, I thought, I’ll check out the property to see if it was worth the risk.
It is one of the usual hollow trees where humans live–very thick trunk, no leaves, no fruits, huge open windows, full of useless stuff. You can hear the constant dripping of water that seems to be ever present for humans. At the window, I could not feel the breeze and the three-legged sloth on the top wasn’t moving.
The humans were still asleep (Lazy bones!) so I decided to take a quick tour and then wait until the sloth wakes up. I sauntered inside. The branches on the top seemed promising for a nest. As I started to check them out one by one, one of the larger humans woke up and saw me. He woke up his mate and pulled out his camera. I thought, well, if that’s what it takes to please them…I posed for him. Big mistake!
Meanwhile, the smallest one woke up and started giggling. I was glad they approved of me; that would make them good neighbours. Or so I thought. I was so wrong!
After some time, the largest human got up and touched one of the square mushrooms that grow from the inner wall of the tree, said something about a ‘fan’. Well, I was rather glad to have him for a fan and I would have accepted the mushroom gift, but the female shouted, “No”.
Then she shouted something that sounded like ‘bird wud hurt’ and the first guy dropped his hand never plucking the mushroom. I would say, I was rather dissapointed by the lack of hospitality. Now, as I continued checking the branches as earlier, this female wouldn’t leave me alone. She started waving her hands menacingly, shouting “Shoo” on the top of her lungs.
“Shoo, yourself woman!” I decided, I wouldn’t be driven out by a jealous female. So, I hung around waiting for her to give up. The male placated her once and all three of them went out of the space closing the opening behind them. I was so glad for the peace and quiet. I tried waking up the three-legged sloth just to see if the breeze of this property was worth the hassle. I tweeted at him. I pecked him. But no use.
Then the female returned brandishing a pitchfork at me…
Okay, not a pitchfork, but one of those long branches these humans weild at times–‘wroom’, I think. She started pestering me with the soft side up, swiping pretty close but never making contact. I was startled at her hostility, I must say. You would think, I had stolen her seeds or something! At first I jumped around from branch to branch. Then I decided to fight back.
“Eat dirt,” I shouted and pushed down the dirt that was collected on the branches right on her eyes. She rubbed them and they were all watery. We faught like that for quite sometime until both of us were breathless.
That’s when she retreated never to come back.
I stayed there another hour but the three-legged sloth slumbered on. Then I just left. I was tired and hungry, and honestly, I couldn’t live in the presence of a hostile female. What if she blames me for leading her mate astray. What impression would that leave on my guy? I wish I had brought him along. Then, her guy would have seen right away that I was taken and he wouldn’t have hit on me in the first place.
Usually, I am a bit dreamy with a faraway look in my eyes. But today when I looked faraway in the sky, I believed I was hallucinating–I saw migrating Eagles.
Now, you’d say, “Come on! Eagles don’t migrate. They are territorial. It must have been another bird.” My thought, precisely.
But, they were eagles. I have observed Athena, our local Eagle who lives across the road on the water tower, for five years now. Lying down on the roof to soak up the sun, I’ve seen her do laps in the sky for hours. I can pick an Eagle out of hundreds of birds in one glance–the lazy demeanour of gliding, the wing span, the shape of wings that gradually becomes a black dot in the sky is imprinted on my memory.
So, I knew they were all Eagles. I quickly counted until seventy but it is a hot afternoon and the sun was in my eyes, and more kept coming. I am sure of a figure above 150. Now, if you remember, I wrote about seeing around 40+ Eagles last year a few days after Bakrid. I believe them to be same, stopping by for water from Yamuna river and may be an early morning snack, because I never saw such a huge group again.
But that looked different because those Eagles were flying low enough to pass next to my third-floor window. These were high up in the sky, all flying in the same direction, not in any specific formation like cranes but the lazy but haphazard movement of tourists out for sight-seeing.
The storyteller within me started jumping to exciting conclusions like Avian war, Biological warfare, Global warming and other stuff.
I ran down excitedly to relay the news to my mother-in-law. But she was unfazed. Apparently, she has seen Eagles flock across the skies too many times to care. So, finally, I had to do what I had to do.
Apparently, I had witnessed the mass migration of the Steppe Eagle. Apparently, they often pass through India. And here I was close to the End of the World. 🤣🤣🤣
Author’s note: I’ve purposely delayed this post by several days to ensure I do not alert poachers. Apparently, Steppe eagles are captured to be kept as pets and their numbers are dwindling.
I always thought that birds chirping was rather peaceful, but my pint-sized neighbours were rather raucous today for no apparent reason. At around noon, the countless birds residing in the immediate area were creating enough noise to drown the traffic noise.
I wondered if their parliament was in session, and whether they were discussing budget…
After one month of bed rest, I started moving around a little and visited our roof. I was immediately rewarded by the welcome sight of four Green Pigeons, who I am sure, are raising the next generation in a nearby tree.
In the same tree, I also spotted a Great Indian Hornbill.
Both the birds are rather difficult to spot among the trees because of their plumage that comprises of different shades of green and grey. So, for all I know, they could have been here all year, but I am considering them as guests since it has been one long year since I saw them.
My daughter was absolutely delighted. But when I extended an invitation to visit us for lunch/dinner (I offer rice on all occasions), my three-year-old cautioned me about bird flu. (At least, one of us has some sense. 🤣) So, I quickly took back the invitation, which made us both sad, but with COVID 19 and bird flu, we have become rather less-hospitable. I hope they don’t take offence.
My area is used to seeing 10-12 birds at any given time except during the intensely hot summer afternoons when these birds are hiding in the cool shade of trees along the roadside. On winter mornings, this number rises to 20s.
Today started as any winter morning. I am on bed-rest because of a back injury and was looking out of the window. Pigeons were enjoying the sun perched on the electric wires on opposite side of the road. There seemed to be a lot more than usual…so many that I had to count them–58! It made me wonder whether a high-tension wire could break down under the weight of 58 full-grown rock pigeons.
And then, all of a sudden around 70 crows flew in from the right side of the sky. There could be more. Since they were coming in large groups and continued circling the sky, it was impossible to count unless I had a very quick brain. But after 14 days of bed-rest due to a minor back injury and 5 fantasy ebooks, my brain is less cognitive and more imaginative. They were cawing at an intensity that made me wonder whether it was a war cry.
Suddenly, the crows started retreating. I turned around and saw a huge number of pigeons flying in from the left side of the city. Suddenly, the pigeons perched on the wire took flight together, swooping in from the left, filling the sky with at least a hundred pigeons and my brain with the scenes from the movie Underworld. I wonderedif I was stuck between a war of shape-shifters–the Crow clan and the Pigeon clan.
The remaining 30+ crows were clearly outnumbered by 1:3 ratio. Holding my breath, I waited for the fighting to begin. But the crows descended and perched on trees on the right of my house (which is the tallest tower in the area) looking irritated and guarded. Then, the bulk of pigeons retreated and nearly 50 pigeons stayed to take their rightful places on the electrical wire in front of my house, looking watchful yet at peace, as always.
I was left waiting for the rounds of silver bullets and wondering if they can penetrate the walls of my house…the only thing between the two clans. Only time will tell, because they are still in position, so if I live to post tomorrow morning, you’d know too.
The hiking trip to the forest had once seemed like a great idea–a dare–but now, it felt horribly wrong.
The forest seemed rather bleak with the tall trees blocking out the sunlight completely. The air was heavy and sounds felt muted somehow, until all we could hear was our own heartbeat. Even the birds that were chirping outside seemed to have deserted the forest in search of happier places. Our otherwise rambunctious group was now too silent. The crunching sound our feet made on the forest floor felt like an open invitation to…
Though we couldn’t be sure of what.
Turning back felt like a wise decision though nobody wanted to say it out loud. It would be admitting defeat. So we all walked along, no longer cracking jokes and too aware of our surroundings. There was a feeling of being followed the moment we stepped in, and as we went deeper, the feeling became stronger, until it was so overpowering like a serpent sitting on our chest. We walked in a tight group and kept sneaking glancing behind us.
And that’s when a twig cracked behind us. A flock of birds took off. And suddenly, everybody started screaming and running in all directions.
A stag walked out of the bushes behind us, looking scandalized.
A couple of months back, I came back to my bedroom to find that I wasn’t the only woman in the room. A very pretty young lady had decided that my place was good enough to spend the night. She was resting against one of the pillars in her absolutely stunning dress in shimmering golden-coppery-green.
It made me slightly jealous–She was definitely returning from the disco, because there was no other excuse for such a dress. I, on the other hand, haven’t stepped out of my house since December 2019, thanks to COVID 19.
Also, that meant she had not been following the social distancing rules, mingling with people. She had no mask. So I, with a self-righteous air, told her to leave. She was probably too drunk to get me, because she stayed right where she was. So, I had to bodily remove her from my premises. But I couldn’t forget the dress…yeah, I know, typical woman! 😁
Kara was sitting on the water tank on the roof with the lost look on his face, that I have become accustomed to, ever since his latest batch of eggs hatched. This time I decided to ask, “Hey, what’s with the long face?”
For the few seconds he took, I thought he wouldn’t reply at all. When he did, there was a sigh in his voice, “I’m worried about the youngest one.”
“What happened? Did he fall off the nest?” That would explain his worried face. But he shook his head, “No, he is careful and obedient–just the child any parents would ask for. I just think, he’s not getting the right role model.”
I thought if the number of times I had thought the same about my baby, “Don’t be silly! You and your wife are dedicated parents and a loving couple. How could you not be a good role model?” He hesitated and I could see he was considering whether to just take off without answering. “Yeah! But our voices are…rather different from him. He tries to imitate us but fails…it leaves him frustrated and sad.”
Out of everything I had expected, thus wasn’t in the list. I was confused, “I think I’m mising something here. How could your voice be different from your child’s? Is it because he is still young and his voice unbroken? You can tell him it is just a matter of time…”
A pregnant silence ensued before he answered the question, sounding hesitant and repentant, as if he was sorry for having talked at all. “It isn’t that. His voice is…shrill…Ever heard of a cuckoo? They often break one of the crow’s eggs and leave their own egg behind. There was a cuckoo in our area when our eggs came about…”
That must have been difficult, to suspect having raised the child of their baby’s murderer, “So, you suspect your youngest is the cuckoo’s baby?”
Resigned, he admitted, “We know he is. Knew it from the first day. Both I and wife saw the broken egg below the tree, but what could have we done? Thrown him out of the nest, out of our lives, like his own parents did? Let him die without experiencing love?
We thought we are doing the right thing by taking him in. But now, we are worried if we are the right role models. All the kids laugh at him at his inability for crow-speak, when he coos in the weird cuckoo voice. We try to rationalise it in front of him, but I think he is beginning to understand that he is different and it hurts him.” He was speaking more to himself than me. “We have been arguing over whether to tell him the truth. The wife is afraid the truth will hurt him deep. She’s afraid to lose him.
But I feel he is already hurting too much–the constant failure to become what he clearly isn’t, to conform with family, to accept himself with all the differences–is proving to be too much for him. I want to tell him the truth before we lose him altogether.”
“But you haven’t. Why?”
When he answered, tears bubbled up in his eyes, “What if he decides that he doesn’t want us anymore? I’m afraid to lose him…”
The guy often flies pretty close to the ground and I can often take clear pictures of him from my roof while he makes baby deliveries. He was rather pleased with his last post–It brought him quite a lot of fans, so he is posing for more.
If you notice, the picture is looking doen upon this flying beauty. It is because I am on my fourth story roof and he flying at third story level.
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.
Kingfishers are a common sight where I live. Though weirdly, there are no fishes in here. I’ve seen them feed on dragon flies and bees. May be they should be renamed as Bee-eaters but the real Bee-eaters might get offended…
In an attempt to give my daughter company during her ‘painting’ escapades, I created this on a rough page with her wax colours. Then she decided the rest of page wasn’t colourful enough and added stuff of her own. I would have kept it too, but leaving a Kingfisher in company of a Lion is rather cruel.
So I cut it out of the paper.
Then she wanted to ‘take a closer look’, so I took a picture to immortalize it in case she decided to go ninja on him.