White-Browed Wagtail / Common Mynah, ECR

Land of the free, home of the grave

I read what people have to say about national politics on Twitter. During lunchtime, I browse through newsfeeds that unattractively hog TV screens. That’s as politically-inclined as I can be. But I pay my taxes. And I form opinions. I don’t have kids. So I tend to take things personally. Especially, my ideologies.

Some nights I stay awake because of them. Thankfully, I don’t have to wipe their butts or pay for their education.

Since yesterday, I have been hearing about the recent India-Pakistan conflict from different sources. I wanted to offer an elaborate view on an age-old rivalry. Then, I realized that Edwin Starr had already sung, “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing”.

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Grey-Headed Canary Flycatcher, Vattakanal

Yours animatedly

One of my favorite videos to watch online is a 1942 Looney Toons episode called The Squawkin’ Hawk. It features Foghorn Leghorn – a wisecracking rooster and Henery Hawk – a bird of prey with Napoleon complex and a foul temper.

Often I am in denial about how much I enjoy cartoons. They were once an important part of my life. Nowadays, I either pretend that I don’t have the time or that I uninterested. The truth is, I am not sure. At some point, I must have assumed it was a part of growing up.

Like finding a job, getting married or making babies – it is just something that most adults do.

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shutterstock_297059441

Born to be Wilde

Writing about social issues used to give me fake powers. Arms stretched out, I jogged across a building terrace – pinching the loose ends of my superhero cape. I was on a mission way to save lives. Tackle injustice. Analyze political quagmires. Make bold statements about societal norms. No fear of consequences. Always ready to fight the good fight.

When I reached the terrace’s edge, I put one foot up on a raised platform. I folded my left elbow and cupped the right shoulder with the center of my palm. I looked up to the sky before peering, heroically, at the city below. I saw all the people on the ground. So many of them needed help. They wanted to be rescued.

Sometime in the 18th century, playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton had suggested that the pen was mightier than the sword. It is hard to disagree because writing can be a potent instrument of change. At least, as long as writers don’t take themselves too seriously.

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Spotted Owlets, Pulicat

Sweet spotted child of mine

I often wonder if birds think that I am a stalker. A person with a fetish for voyeurism. Look at the facts. I follow them around. I try to escape their line of vision so that they don’t fly away. Then, I photograph them before coming back home to admire them.

I post it on restricted groups across social media. Engage others in the stories that led me to them.  And hope that they will come back for more.

I feel like the gatekeeper of an underground pornography racket. Excepting that, nobody is paying me for it.

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Custard, Kodaikanal

I woof you too

I have mixed feelings about pet dogs. While I want to kiss every dog I meet on its wet nose, I am unsure if it is a deep and purposeful bond.  It seems to be a symbiotic bond between two emotionally-needy creatures. The Homo Sapien and the Felis Domesticus.

I had a pet Pomeranian called Terry. We grew up in the same household for 12 years. We were family. He came to us when he was two weeks old. Instantly, we became best friends. Because I lived in a neighborhood where there weren’t any other kids to play with.

He was mellower than the average Pomeranian. A goofball despite born an animal without a sense of humor. I loved him because he gave me a lot of attention. I suspect that he followed me around because I was a recurring part of his ecosystem. We felt safe around each other.

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Trains

A train song

We have lost people to distance. A part of us gets up, packs up its bags and leaves. However sweet the goodbye. Or brief the quota of time we had with them. It’s still as though something is broken. It can’t be fixed, no matter how hard we try. We may know that things will be better soon. And we may move on quicker than what we think is possible. It doesn’t mean that we can forget the sound of it.

Whenever someone important to me disappears from my life, I hear the passing of a distant train from a bygone era. Even if they are taking the bus, going to the airport or walking down the road, the squealing of an old steam horn beseeches me. And I feel safe and warm.

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Common Hoopoe, Chennai

The unbearable short-sightedness of a Hoopoe lover

I have a tumultuous relationship with Common Hoopoes. Whenever I see one, disaster tends to flirt with me. I end up hurting myself, causing damage to property or making people suspicious of me. And I hear a sad violin solo playing in the background, as the bird flies away.

I was riding pillion on my friend’s motorbike when I first spotted a Hoopoe at a bird sanctuary. It appeared on the branch of a papaya tree. I hopped to the ground for a closer look. But I slipped and burnt the skin off my ankle on the bike’s muffler. I shrieked. Distracted, the bird flew away.

I was aghast when I realized what I had done. I made unhappy noises. My friend could have possibly thought to himself, “So this is what it sounds like when doves cry”.

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Painted Storks, Chennai

Happiness is leaving on a stolen jet plane

I think Con Air, a movie about a plane hijacking, has some of the worst dialogues ever. But I have seen it over 30 times. I can’t help myself. It’s like stopping by a highway accident to assess the carnage. A cat-and-mouse game we play with our minds. We may grimace at the sight of blood. Yet we stick around to look for brain matter on the road.

Another reason is that Steve Buscemi plays a serial killer called Marietta the Mangler. In my favourite scene, he describes a fellow crook as being so angry and troubled that happiness, for that gentleman, hurts.

When I first heard the line, it sounded preposterous. Now, I get it. Happiness can hurt. It’s why I watch Con Air whenever I get the chance.

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Blue-Capped Rock Thrush

Birds of feather balk together

If it weren’t for birds, I wouldn’t have met any of you. This blog is almost two years old. Some of you have been visiting me since the beginning. It’s the second longest relationship I have ever been in. I don’t know how special this has been for you. But, it has meant a lot to me.

I may not know all your names. Not everyone stops long enough to leave behind a comment. But a WordPress widget lets me know that you exist. And I am thankful for it.

At times, birds fly away quickly too. Even before we consciously share something beautiful together.

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Indian Roller - Vedanthangal

My city was once a blue jay

I am one of those 30-year-olds who believes that things were better when I was growing up. I have a romanticized interpretation of the good old days. Like many, I want to remember the past for the lessons it taught me, not the scars it gave me. It adds more credibility to the life I lead, and the decisions I continue to take.

Many of the memories I recollect comprise mushy dribble. A tacky sequence of events that made no sense back then. In hindsight, it was as though the past had been engineered just to make me a wiser person. It’s a bunch of nonsense. A game of Russian roulette without any bullets.

But some of it feels warm and genuine. Unbroken and unedited. The month of December in the city of Chennai during the Nineties is one of those things.

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