A few days ago, WordPress disabled my blog without any warning. It was gone and replaced with a tactless update about how I may have breached the terms and conditions. I cussed under my breath and wrote about five emails to WordPress Support. I had no idea why it happened. I thought perhaps they had frowned on the fact that some of my posts appear on Medium – a competitor in the free publishing platform industry.
After exporting the backup file to save my content, I went to the terrace to calm myself down and wait for an update. As the bluing skies hijacked my gaze, two things occurred to me. One is that I am jealous of my neighbour’s mango tree given the Rose-Ringed Parakeets it seems to attract. The other is that WordPress – as a free publishing platform – sucks.
People can be strangers. Even the ones we know and love. They can be empty in places that we aren’t, which can lead to miscommunication. False expectations and heartbreaks.
Birds make for much more reliable companions. It doesn’t matter that their calls are lost in translation to our ears. We can still understand and respect them. In turn, they will trust us enough to share their lives. At least a few special moments. As long as we go out birding with a good heart and a sound mind, we will be loved in some amount of loose change.
When I visited the Periyar National Wildlife Sanctuary in 2013 with a friend, we opted for an expensive and grueling 9-hour paid trek around the border of the jungle. There was a couple from France who accompanied us. We were chaperoned by four armed forest officers. Obviously I would have rather gone solo to chew on dead sunflower stems in the heart of the jungle. But I would have been dead by morning.
One needs training, not tacky sentimentality, to survive in the wild. We were there because of our desperation to see a tiger in its natural habitat. Instead we were ambushed by a herd of elephants. And I ended up with one of those life’s lessons.
I don’t have bucket lists. My existential excuse is that they seem too purposeful. It would be a disaster given how instinctive I am. Of course the obvious reason is bucket lists require a lot of planning; something I am not good at.
I did once try to think of five birds I would want to spot in India. The list started with Black Baza and ended with Fire-Tailed Sunbird. I never gave it much thought until recently when it occurred to me that I might be a discriminatory birder.
I realized that I have been judging birds by their wing colours.
Summer in India and the monsoon season soon after generally comprise tumultuous times for me. I am fond of neither summers nor the rain. They represent a slew of reasons as to why most of my recent birding trails turned out to be damp squibs.
Birding isn’t impossible when it rains. They still need to come out and eat. Do their chores and keep an eye out for intruders. However it is difficult to spot birds given the graying filters that swallow terrains. The unpredictable winds that hamper identification of flight patterns. The slippery leech-infested terrains make it hard to track them down. In such cases though, I have learnt to set aside my expectations to just stroll with the flow.
The bedroom door creaks,
as her pottu runs cold,
reaching speeds of estimated tax returns;
she shakes her fists at the world,
screaming “turn me into a porcelain doll
before my private parts start to burn”.
A pottu or a bindi is a little coloured dot that Indian women wear on their foreheads. It is more of an Indian tradition than it is a part of Hindu mythology. Given how non-secular my country is, I can’t really tell the difference.
Birds are potted plants for rent;
Even if their terrace gardens may change,
the colour of water that kisses their roots
will remain the same.
Old World Flycatchers (Eeppidippan) are beautiful passerine birds. They are notoriously difficult to photograph. It took me about a year to spot the Asian Paradise Flycatcher. The Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher and Black-And-Orange Flycatcher continue to be disastrously fleet-footed subjects of mine.
As a writer, you are probably more self-absorbed than the average person. You find it cumbersome to socialize. You hate confrontations when it is your turn to listen. I am not saying you can be moody too. Just that there are motherless honey badgers in the Kalahari dessert with shorter fuses. Only in language have you found the comfort you need, without feeling inadequate about expressing your emotions. For you, writing is more than a celebration of the art form. It is your bomb shelter. Your refugee camp. You take it way more seriously than you should.
It is perhaps why you egg, at times, those you interact with to physically harm you or give up their respective belief systems to consider placing a voodoo curse on you. So here are five things – as a writer – you (we) can do to avoid getting punched in your (our) faces.
At dawn, she weaves straw hats
and tosses them out to safer shores.
The dusk sees her curled up, dreamless,
like someone else’s pocket comb.
You have a salad
in place of a soul,
a secret rooftop garden
instead of a home,