Chennai is still recovering from the floods. Our birds though are back in town. I have spotted plenty of Asian Koels in my neighbourhood. I have seen a lot more woodpeckers too, chipping away on branches in the morning. A few Rufous Treepies have come over, outside my balcony, to say hello. Today, a Shikra caught me off-guard on the way to work.
I am not angry, like I was when my city was drowning. I feel a little silenced; even unsentimental about the loss, the hope, and the hate that came after. Either I am only empathetic to the languishing of humanity when it directly affects me or I am just very fond of birds. To paraphrase Nick Hornby’s musing on pop music – do I spend time with birds because I don’t want to be with people? Or do I spend time away from people because I want to be with birds?
What came first – the love or the misery to go looking for it in the first place?
I know what I want to believe. I just can’t be sure if I am being honest to myself. The only thing I know is that I had breakfast with a pair of Golden Orioles last weekend. And they made me realize that I had better things to think about.
For instance, if the two orioles, I spotted near Kelambakam, were related to each other. Whether the two Common Mynahs, who stopped by, were still in awe of their bright yellow companions despite being colour blind. And why were the birds spreading their wings in such theatrical fashion? Were they dancing? Or sunbathing to dry their wings off the early morning moisture?
I think they were dancing.
The air, in my city, is still too thick with fear and sadness, for me to find winter’s love in people. Two weeks after uniting, in spirit and action, to help each other survive a natural disaster, we are back to business. We are breaking bad again. Littering the streets. Being concerned about real estate value instead of preparing for nature’s next installment of fury.
Social media is turning into a giant mutual admiration cocktail party. Armchair activists are building their own personal brands under the pretext of flood relief-related altruism. Yuck. All most of us did was behave like decent human beings during a time of helplessness. What do we want for it? Cookies?
We also choose to remain deluded over the damage we do. Being aware beyond a point seems to stall our twisted notion of progress, as defined by our corrupt government, respective families and expensive television sets. I only wish that we were more attentive of indisputable realities so that we can recuperate better next time, or at least slip quietly into the night, with some dignity.
Until then, I rather believe that I live in a world where Golden Orioles dance for me as I chomp on a spinach sandwich on a Saturday morning. Not one in which I spend every ounce of the time and energy I have dealing with people, irrespective of how good or bad they make me feel.
empties her skirt
pockets, and weeps,
she fears that
we may paint her
fully yellow once
she falls asleep.