India is talking about Rohith Vemula’s suicide. Many are calling it a murder. People want heads to roll. They want to taste the winds of change on their fat tongues. After all, the right to protest is crucial to societal advancement. Even Pythagorean cups must spill over, if need be.
But I don’t understand why Rohith is seen as a martyr. He killed himself, unable to cope with caste-based discrimination in the education system. The young man gave up on the fight. Even if he intended to make a statement on victimization of Dalits, it still meant there is one less person now, committed to change, in the country. His death, while it may not diminish the cause, will add precious little towards it.
I saw two common mynahs chase a sleeping owlet out of her nesting hole on an upright snag. And then the mynahs started quarreling with each other. The owlet came back after they had flown away, fighting in mid-air as they descended upon a nearby tree. She didn’t seem pleased. That look of indignation on her face was heart-breaking.
It reminded me of when I had recently taken a friend out for dinner. Unfortunately, his office colleagues were seated a few tables away. Like hyenas, they came towards us. Their fangs were besmirched with inane banter; their eyes – thirsting for diversions. About 10 minutes later, I was ready to give up. Not just on making dinner plans, but on the nature of humanity.
The Pompadour Green Pigeon looks like a toy to me. I bet that every night – woodland creatures dip them in buckets filled with green paint. By dawn, they are free to roam in the hills. They fly around, ornamenting the trees with their madly-purple shoulders. And giving neck-cramps to birders.
My neck will snap if I ever go to the rain forests of Papua and spot the Western Crowned Pigeon. She will spread her crown for me. And I will quickly leave after taking a few photographs. Too much beauty can break me down. It can make me cry.
People like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Lennon had unrealistic dreams. They spoke of grandiose ideas that could never be translated into actionable plans; at least not in their lifetimes. I feel more inspired by those who dream for themselves, and for their loved ones.
Years ago, one of my friends start making plans to build a house. It was a milestone he ached to cross. He also wanted to make his bed-ridden parents feel good. One was battling cancer and the other had gone through a third stroke while in paralysis. They died before the construction even began. But later, at the house warming ceremony, my friend looked happy. No matter what – the dream had come true. If his parents had been alive, they would have been proud.
I can’t see these isolated achievements as meek endeavors. They are the best that most of us are capable of, given how distracted we can be. It’s what makes us human beings.
The south Indian princess of hill stations was kind to me this weekend. She scratched her armpits and set free many birds at the crack of dawn. They found shade under tea rose flowers. Some hurried in for the nectar and others waited for insects that lounged on moist petals.
Each one was a painting with songs for brushstrokes. A community gathering of those with the loveliest vests and softest falsettos. As the afternoon mist threatened to swallow us whole, they began to fly away. One by one – they disappeared like dewing lashes in the wind. It felt cruel and calculated. How the world takes away what we love the most after giving us a little taste of it.
Pond Herons are one of the easiest birds to spot. They are used to our garbage, literally and figuratively. I have never written about them because profundity has been amiss during my encounters with them. I can fondly recollect Great Hornbills or Eagle Owls since each time it was a struggle to find them. An adventure with highs and lows. As for Pond Herons, I can see them in any of the birding locations in the city, without moving a muscle.
For me, the urge to overcome hurdles is an addiction. The intoxication of fighting the odds. The process of grappling with a difficult situation to emerge from it a success or a failure. I need to be challenged in a way that makes me feel vulnerable. I want potential failures to be drastic. I don’t aspire to share a diplomatic relationship with the universe. As beautiful, vast and confusing as it is, I don’t want things to be hunky dory between us.