Authors Note: Our dear old delivery guy is grumpier than usual.
I hate these foreigners.
They swoop in, sully our lands, eat our food, and stutter around with their red heads held high as if they own the place. Sometimes I wish I could take them all aside and show them what we do with encroachers. But we have hosted them all our lives. I can’t get on a killing spree…
Not that I am afraid of them! I mean, I know they are bigger and stronger, and their group is too huge, and the raw power they radiate when they descend together on their huge black wings and too long crooked beaks held high is awe-inspiring. And our women “Ooh” and “Aah” as they pass.
Agh! I wish I could take a swing at that massive black one my sweety is pining for. Every time he is around, something comes over her. She has never been clumsy before but when he looks in her direction, she drops whatever fish she is holding and has to brace herself with both legs. You would think we never taught her how to fish.
Sometimes, she stands taller, ruffles her feathers, plumps them up and cleans herself too often, as if vying for his attention; as if this foreigner is going to fall in love with her and stay here forever or take her along with him. He won’t. He is here only for the winters. Come summers and he will fly away leaving her high and dry. Just the thought makes me want to peck him to death.
Not that he is interested in her. For all the attention he gives her back, she could be a mouse in the field. He just flies around showing off, his eyes only for the woman he brought along–never even sparing a second look for my pretty girl. Every time he passes without looking at my sweety, I can see her heart break in the way her face drops, and that too makes me want to break some wings.
I want to peck him to death or, at least, want him to leave the place before my sweety loses it. I wish she would choose a stork who would love her or, better still, stay away from all the storks forever so I don’t have to kill them all…
Sigh! I am not sure anymore what I want anymore. I just wish being a father was easier.
It was just out of reach. I stretched on my feet, balancing against the counter but I just couldn’t reach the damned tin. It was a tease if I ever saw one. He knows well how I crave for them, and right now, I had the mother of all cravings.
I looked at him for help but he was smiling dazedly at his laptop. The only thing I hate more than lapdogs is laptops. They are invaders who encroach into other people’s territory taking away their jobs and rightful places. Right now, I wanted to throw this one on the ground and grind it into tiny pieces. It has made my John it’s slave until he he wouldn’t remember I was in the room trying to get his attention.
I looked at that tin once again. I have to get it somehow. Either I will reach it or it will have to come to me…Having lost the battle against the former idea, I decide to go for the latter.
So, I pick myself as gracefully as I can and walk towards John like the models do on TV, making demure noises. He looks around at me and smiles. Good! I have his attention now. I walk closer, circling him, rubbing my shoulders against him.
Finally, he gets the message. He moves that blasted laptop to the table, gives me a heart-melting smile and gets out of his chair.
Then he opens the tin of tuna. I run to my dish. Oh, how I love this man.
Author’s note: The first line of this story was offered by Elizabeth.
It happened at last but not the way I had hoped.
I didn’t have to stay in the river anymore. It was too crowded anyway–too many grand hippos, uncles, aunts and cousins left too little privacy. Too many family members shared the food that was mostly just grass. An occasional fruit would lead to fights among cousins where I always lost, being the weakest one. Also, too many fishes poked their noses in my business, gossiping about who I spoke to and how it all went.
I couldn’t get away from them fast enough.
So, I was happy, at least in the beginning, that I wouldn’t have to share my food anymore. Ever since they brought me here in that trailer, I had had more fruits everyday than ever in my lifetime. And I had the little pond all to myself without any gossiping fishes or frogs or uncles or aunts or cousins…
There was no one to fight for food and no one to gossip with or about…
This January, I was at mom’s and had a bit of time at hand so I drew these 5-minute sketches (using the pictures I had taken during our visit to the zoo) to entertain my daughter while she practiced writing hindi alphabets.
Now, my daughter has started water colours this month and as a gesture of comraderie, I joined in the fun and made these.
Here is the only one where I took a bit of time, around 30 mins.
My reintroduction to art is so much fun I am having a hard time stopping to live the real life.
The moonless night hid me well, clocking my dark coat to the point of invisibility as I stood in the corner observing her. I was hungry and she was alone at the stand, waiting for the bus, looking around nervously—an easy prey. She wasn’t grand but she’d have to do.
I moved towards her stealthily. Just twenty feet…
She shivered as she sensed me. Her face ashen and eyes wide with fear, she looked around trying to find the source of her discomfort.
It was now or never for me, so I stalked closer—close enough to rub my back with her leg—and gave a low growl. Finally, her eyes spotted me.
“Hey little kitty, are you lost? Are you hungry?” I purred in affirmation as she picked me up and grinned widely. “You don’t have a collar. Do you want to come home with me?”
Humans are so predictable!
–Dedicated to John Melone for his crazy cat poetry and to Prashanth’s Ikru and his northern lights
Authur’s note: Haiku is a form of short poetry originally from Japan. Traditional Japanese haiku consist of three phrases in a 5, 7, 5 pattern (5,7,5 syllables or words in English), and a seasonal reference.
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 outside the hollow of their trees 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! 😁