It is Delhi. Probably end August, maybe September. They are sitting on a stone bench close to a Champa (Frangipani) tree. The tree still has a few post monsoon blooms. They watch the girls, go in and go out. It will soon be dusk. And the main gates will close bringing to end all interactions with the other world. The world inside however, will awaken in the glow of the yellow light bulbs surrounded by the buzz of countless insects.
To keep the interaction alive in the dying minutes, he asks, “Which is your favourite bird?” For they are of that age when favourites matter and likes and dislikes don’t simply point to inherent contradictions. Without hesitation, for she is only seventeen, she replies, “Sparrows.” He is a tad disappointed, even a bit uncertain that maybe his question wasn’t taken seriously. For it is important to get accurate, honest answers to such questions otherwise how will he ever comprehend her? He is only eighteen. He continues, “Ah! That’s not fair. Why sparrows? Why not eagles or bats? My favourite are the vultures.” She only reiterates that she indeed does like sparrows the best of all. Both discuss their choices a bit more in the hope that the other appreciates the reason for the preceding why. And also in the hope that maybe their minds can meet at some convenient point.
In the decades to follow they will realize that their choices weren’t as far apart as they had thought sitting on the stone bench close to the Champa tree. And that both sparrows and vultures, in the years to come, just like the innocence of their interactions, will tether on the brink of extinction in India. And most importantly, they will realize that there are no differences, no matter how far and wide apart, that time and the mere act of continued living can't reconcile. Even obliterate altogether.