I discover beauty, in physical forms, while birding. I try to cup its essence like palm leaves do a heavy shower. Most of it spills out of my hands. I hold hostage the thimbleful that remains through poetry, prose and photographs. I seek out boxes to put them into and admire them. Perhaps, even introspect about my own semi-charmed life that led me to these moments.
Yesterday, a few Coppersmith Barbets and a hyperactive Asian Paradise Flycatcher reminded me that beauty in birding is neither an art form nor a science. It is a backpack I can sling over my shoulder as I mosey towards the horizon. They made me realize that, in the absence of harmony and clarity, it is just extra baggage.
I don’t think we write poetry. We merely discover it. Poetry is everywhere; nude, unpredictable and evocative. We run around in circles, with hand mirrors pressed against our chests. We don’t create it from scratch. Breathe life into words. Or dig deeper within ourselves, past the festering muck of human drama, to find serenity in language.
Poetry sniffs us out. Then it hunts us down. It’s always either a pleasant surprise or a rude awakening. It occupies our throats. Rattles our bones. Blurs our vision. Fills our heads with delusions of inadequacy. And our hearts – with finger-plucked music and wet autumn leaves.
It can be beautiful yet empty. Melancholic but hopeful. It can be as confusing as it is comforting; as caustic as it is fragile. Strangely, it always makes us feel better about ourselves.
As I was stranded for over 5 hours in traffic due to the flooding in Chennai, two things occurred to me. One is that I cannot wiggle either of my ears. The other is that Chennai is as much a developed city as the whale is a fish. Even if it looks, sounds and smells like a metropolitan, it will never be one considering how uneven its infrastructural development is.
There are no sustainable benefits in striving to be global when progress has been historically stalled at the grassroots level. It is clear that my city isn’t ready for such rapid expansion. It now buckles under the smoldering weight of its cumulative greed. In the event of such disastrous events, because of this, each of us suffer a lot more. Irrespective of our income levels, at some point – we all feel helpless.
I hope the people of France are safe. I wish them a speedy recovery. But today I support my state of Tamil Nadu. She has been ravaged by heavy storms. People have been losing their homes and livelihoods, and others – their lives.
For the past 12 hours, there have been nonstop thunderstorms in Chennai. My city has turned into a helpless, soaking-wet mongrel. Her roads have turned into death-traps and her buildings – into dirty sponges. Trees have been falling by the wayside. Electricity is a problem as is public transportation. The rumour mill has been working overtime, spreading paranoia.
People act strangely when they perceive a threat to their social statuses. They lash out, either blatantly or passive-aggressively, at the nearest targets. Given how unfunny people can be, such behaviour ends up creating tension. Their logic is that this would somehow help control the way others think about them.
It’s one of the stupid things many of us do to restore our crumbling self-esteem. But this kind of nonsense doesn’t fly with the birds. If they insist that you back off, you do just that. If you don’t, they aren’t going stick around. Or they would peck your eyes out.
Last weekend, I am pretty sure I annoyed a Common Kestrel. Thankfully she chose option number three. And nobody got hurt.
We often want to put a positive spin on the mistakes we make. How if it wasn’t for our blunders over the years, we probably wouldn’t be here today. We don’t realize that we might have been happier if we hadn’t screwed up. We could have been astronauts. Spotted more birds. Spent less time fretting over our stupid problems. Learnt how to finger-paint. We are so obsessed about learning from our missteps that we don’t stop ourselves from taking them.
I almost made a huge mistake last Sunday. I considered skipping a long-awaited birding trail along State Highway 49 (East Coast road). It wasn’t even for a noble reason. There were no kittens to be rescued. I was just lazy.