It happens quiet like this. You are walking in that typical gait; feet shuffling slowly, head tilted up, eyes peering through the leaves, looking for, but of course, birds. And then a voice whispers in your ears, “Do you want to see birds? Come I will show you, there are many birds here.”
And she leads you to the bushes where everyday in the morning the magpie robin waits to greet her. Or the small patch of wild grass where the white-breasted munias have a lunch date. Or the lone fig tree where, if you look long and hard enough, you can spot owls and hornbills. She is our lady of the birds.
She can be found often toiling hard at the most mundane of tasks. Cleaning toilets in the hotel, carrying firewood as she rushes home to cook dinner, picking discarded plastic bottles casually thrown from passing cars, or washing clothes by the tube well. Sometimes she even takes on the avatar of two boys on a bicycle, or of old men chewing sugarcane, or of the girl with red ribbons in her hair walking back home from school.
In fact, she maybe anyone anywhere doing the one thing that you are least likely to notice. Even she is least likely to notice you until you start looking for birds. Then she’ll magically appear and lead you by the hand to bird paradise.
For Usha and her birds. With gratitude.