Sunday, 27 September 2009

Introducing the long-tailed tit










Ever since it sneaked into the tenth position on the RSPB’s garden bird watch we always wondered why we never got a visit from one. Some of the reasons were obvious like we don’t have a garden and also the fact that blue tits, robin, chaffinch, great tits and blackbirds have often visited our second floor balcony in itself is some kind of good fortune worth celebrating. So why overstretch your luck? But still we wondered and sometimes looked out to the wide world and, for no reason, sighed.

Then one day something felt a bit different. There was no special zing in the air or chime of distant bells but just an odd flurry outside the window. And lo and behold! Wishes do come true and all the sighs sent out into the wide open do find a benevolent ear. Yes, it was a long-tailed tit. Finally. It sat on the ledge and watched the birds on the peanut feeder. Flew across the balcony once or twice and then off it went. But that was time enough to take a few photographs as proof of the great event that had taken place.

After that first spotting we have spent countless evenings with countless long-tailed tits, cause they never travel alone but in flocks of 10, 20 or more and have found the neighbourhood park a good enough spot as any to spend their time in. And every time we see one, we always remember that thing about wishes and the benevolent ear.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

London Diary: Bleaker than the bleakest day

Oh damn! It looks bleak. Bleak enough to evoke a thousand curses on the way to work. So, bleak that it inspires many FaceBook statuses moaning the bleakness. Bleakness that is grey-black clouds and cold steely rain. Bleaker than the bleakest day remembered from the years long gone. But the world outside my window is green.

I watch the rain and wind command the trees through a cycle of impossible calisthenics. As the misty blanket engulfs and obscures the towering grey man-made giants. Till all that is visible is the trees and the lone grey heron waiting and watching, as is his destiny. No sign of humans; even the drone of traffic is subdued by the shrieking gusty wind.

Outside my door the geraniums and petunias revel in the rain. Birds flock to the lone feeder hanging on by a black shoelace. A blue tit impatiently awaits its chance to get a footing on the mildly swaying feeder. A blue and yellow speck dashing among the magenta fuchsia while the others nibble. Amidst the vague calls of tea-cher, tea-cher and other sihishishishi’s. Finally as the rain falls down by the fistfuls and the hordes fly away, the tenacious one grips tightly onto the perch and merrily pecks on.

Yes, the world outside my window is quite the opposite of bleak.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Good Daughter

When people timidly proffered banal opinions about good and evil. Sometimes gathering enough courage to quote from Richard Bach or Reader's Digest. Expounding more clich├ęs than one’s brain can consume in a lifetime. A cacophony of mindlessly droning human voices going on and on about nothing. In that summer before our last year in college you gifted me ‘Summer in Algiers’ by Albert Camus. You said I’d like it. I knew about Camus, had read about Camus but had never felt it essential to read a single word of what he wrote. But that is what after school education does to you in India. You know everything related to the subject except the subject itself.

And you were correct. I loved the essay. I loved the vivid description of the people and the place, almost real, mostly nostalgic like some faded Polaroid. For days I ruminated over, “…Algiers (together with certain other privileged places such as cities on the sea) opens to the sky like a mouth or a wound. In Algiers one loves the commonplace: the sea at the end of the street, a certain volume of sunlight, the beauty of the race. And, as always, in that unashamed offering there is a secret fragrance. In Paris it is possible to be homesick for space and a beating of wings. Here, at least, man is gratified in every wish and, sure of his desires, can at last measure his possessions.” And I ruminated over what it was like to know. To have knowledge that comes from direct experience, knowledge that is ‘sure of its desire’, and knowledge that is lucid - self-expressed.

Just like today I ruminate over you and the books and thoughts we shared. And wonder how you are. Hoping you have managed to come away unscathed with your intellect preserved. Though somewhere in my mind a tiny voice offers some nameless misgivings. And when I look back to that and other such terrible summers in Delhi I can’t help but wonder how did you manage it even then. You, who could quote from Plato and Nietzsche, stuck in a quagmire of familial ambitions squeezing every last bit of oxygen; making all the books and quotes fall lifeless. Become meaningless. Feel homesick for space and a beating of wings.

Could we have known it then? Do you know it now? You could have been an artist, an intellectual, anything you desired if only you had not chosen to be the good daughter.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Kindness of strangers

All that remains is two glasses on a vacant table. One half full and the other empty. And the echo of parting words, “Enjoy the best years of your life.” They are gone. Poof. They almost vanish in thin air and you wonder did it really happen, where they even there. And then you see the two glasses on the vacant table. By and by the entire interaction, even the minutest gestures walk in to firmly establish their place among the memories of people you meet for a few minutes in some obscure corner of the world never to forget again.

They travel in the bus with you. Or occupy the seat next to yours in the airplane. And sometimes they are just people whose conversation you eavesdrop upon as the train whistles past vast blue skies filled with fat cotton ball like clouds while the hay bales roll by. They could be talking about the trenches of the first world war revisited and the horrors relived while the border collie travelling along struggles to get up onto the girl’s lap to press his nose against the window pane. Or they could be debating the finer points of theoretical physics in a village pub only to pause for the young waitress to serve them their pints. And sometimes you meet them as you struggle for breath at the end of a long trek to the top. With a smile, a laugh and a nod they admit you into the communal experience of shared emotions and exhilaration.

So you stare at the two glasses, one half full and the other empty and recollect a man amused by his struggles with his memory and a woman joking about warmer climes and appreciate a life fulfilled. The culmination of all tribulations and happiness. That elusive secret passed onto two complete strangers who wait for dinner to be served. Invoking a blessing. May they enjoy the best years of their life.

This random kindness of strangers and moments of bliss shared with people unknown. This sudden uplifting of spirits and the calm light that enters the eyes. Hope makes an elegant entrance and chooses to grace us with its presence, even if it is only for a while.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

London Diary: Summer's last stand


It filters through the leaves


It colours the skies


You can see it reflect in the robin's eye


As the great tit contemplates the days gone by


The grass sings it isn't time, as yet, for goodbye


It is still summer: it's summers last stand with its head held high.