Stop and smell the Indian Pond Heron’s poop

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.

I turn both casual and intimate relationships into complex roulette games. Either someone gets hurt because it wasn’t my turn to roll the dice. Or we briefly unravel each other’s mysteries as movie themes plays in the background.

Indian Pond Heron, Vedanthangal

Even when I am far from the madding crowd, I pressurize myself to rise above some challenge or the other. I have to climb over slippery rocks, cross waterfalls and walk through leech-infested areas to find a spot where I can sit down and seek peace. I have never felt more alive as I did when a Gaur almost killed me a few years ago.

I discover clarity in these situations. It hits me like light piercing through window cracks. It’s like revitalization therapy. Or the last three minutes in any Rocky movie. It isn’t always the case though. Not by a long shot. I have found myself on the ground many times, with a wounded ego, a battered heart, bankrupt and nursing multiple fractures.

Yet I can still cope with calamities better than I can deal with sedation.

Indian Pond Heron, Chennai

I don’t think I will ever get bored by the swaying pendulum of sentiments. However I am becoming increasingly annoyed that I seem to be missing out on far less contrived pleasures. Perhaps I can pause, in short spurts, as I invest time and effort into figuring out how to finally connect my phone to the television. Or have dinner with a friend without wanting to leave the conversation – shaken, stirred and more informed.

To start with, I want to spend more time with Pond Herons. I have been seeing them all week hunting for crustaceans and small fishes by the river at the crack of dawn. They are so graceful, fluid and focused that even their bowel movements have me hypnotized.

What the poop do I know anyway about making a genuine effort to be happy.

Be like a wild stream,
unbroken and free, unlike
the gravel and rock
that rumble underneath.

Indian Pond Heron, Vedanthangal

(Photographs: Vedanthangal)

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