No man is a bird sanctuary

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 urge to do more because of how few opportunities there are to break through the facade of normalcy. We want to live larger because the world looks smaller every time technology shrinks it. We crave for significance and we will do anything to get it. The best part of these dreams are that no one else needs to know about them.

I had a dream today. I wanted a pleasant Sunday morning at Vedanthangal with my feathered friends. It didn’t come true because today the city celebrated Kaanum Pongal – the fourth day of the State harvest festival. People pay homage to their elders, gods, statues, paintings, etc. And hordes of families invade every tourist spot out there.

Vedanthangal bird sanctuary

I wrongly assumed that a bird sanctuary might be safe from the invasion. The smell of bad deodorant was more prominent than the beautiful aroma of bird poop in the morning. It was a hot mess. Children were chasing bonnet macaques. Adults were worse, soiling the sanctity of the place with their negativity. I heard one of them complaining about how there were only big-beaked birds. Another sulked about how the selfies needed more back-light.

I was about to give up on my dream before a bunch of owlets showed up to calm me down.

They sang Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax, Don’t Do It” and danced to it. Or they were just annoyed that I kept finding them no matter where they went. I know which theory I believe in.

The usual suspects were there too – Painted Storks, Midnight Herons, Asian Openbills, Spotted Pelicans, Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-Headed Ibises, Flamebacks, Grey Herons, Hawk Cuckoos and Shikras.

It was almost turning into a pleasant Sunday. Then, a group of obnoxious teenagers saw me photographing the owlets. The tallest one pointed to the branch, and yelled “Anthaa da macha (it’s an owl, dude)” at his friends. Instinctively I waved my arms at the owlets and shooed them away to another branch. The group looked at me quizzically as I walked away with a frown.

Spotted Owlet, Vedanthangal

Some don’t deserve to know it feels like to have owlets stare right back into their eyes. They don’t respect the Vedanthangal’s fragile ecosytem. They don’t even make any attempt to enjoy its fauna. Instead they bring in their arrogance to make light of matters they know nothing about.

Also, nobody gets to ruin my dream and then go home with a part of it.

Painted Stork, Vedanthangal

They don’t
list out their
favourite things;
one has roots –
the other wears
a pair of wings

(Photographs: Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary / Kelambakkam)

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26 comments

  1. Great post! The shots of the birds are wonderful! It’s sad to see visitors flout rules in a natural habitat. And when kids do it, it’s worse. It crushes ‘Hope’. When we walked in the forest in HP, I could smell expensive perfume. And I wondered, who would want to mask the smell of the forest with artificial stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The ‘exploitation’ of a bird sanctuary is similar to what we face in a zoo. Humans – despite being referred to as the only race with two legs and a brain to think – come down to deciphering their obsession with a selfie stick (these days) and (re)instating the power they posses over their (sometimes, irrelevant) vocal chords. No sooner you see a tiger, and the crowd’s ooo-ing and aah-ing. Little do they understand the animals were kind enough to let an anthropoid as futile as you in their habitat. And the least they could do to reciprocate is adapt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah Madhvi. Our vandalur zoo is a distressing case study about the insolence of our species, both as alpha caretakers and erstwhile admirers.

      Of course I can’t predict how I may react if I stumble upon a wild cat. Manically-happy freak outs are good bets.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. //Happy freak outs are good bets// – indeed, they are. On a similar train, I’ve once had the chance to stumble upon a couple of white tigers, playfully fighting with each other. A spell-bounding sight t’was!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know about Ghandi, but I like to think that MLK’s ‘dream’ is a good one and one worth working and fighting for, inasmuch as our civilized society remains intact. His dream is alive here in MY bubble — and we extend our compassion to more than just other humans that don’t look like us. After all, we are ALL animals.

    The disruptions in our enjoyment of nature by others are frequent in our outings (we are in US’s 4th largest city…it happens). We take the opportunity to extend our awe to them with interesting facts about the species we are viewing, offering a peer through the binocular lens, or a ‘Shhh…we are in another’s house here. Be respectful.’ One or all usually work to curb the thoughtless intrusion. Kids are merely a reflection of their parents, who are probably in these natural spaces to get a welcomed break from their own kids.

    Your owls are the best way to wake up in the morning. More please!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lovely thought, Shannonroo! Trickling down is our only recourse. I just don’t have confidence in our race. I instinctively bet against our collective radiance hehehe

      Glad that you woke up to the owls. Owl we need is persistence (big smile)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As always, Christy, I’m enthralled by the way you give yourself over to the earth’s gifts when people get you down. I do, however, have to take issue with your first sentence. M. Gandhi and MLK’s dreams were very much put into concrete actions which made very real change to very real people. Grandiose dreams are not incompatible with actionable plans; they are the guide of such plans.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Old Men Feed The Birds

    In all the parks in the world
    The old men sit
    And feed the birds.
    The old men sit
    At noon and dawn
    For they well know
    They will be gone.
    But all the birds
    In all the world
    Will still sing out
    To raise the sun,
    Will still loud sing
    To set the moon.
    To welcome leaves
    When comes the Spring.
    They bid farewell
    When winters blow,
    They range the sky.
    To poles they go
    To know the Earth
    In part and whole
    Across the continents they fly.
    And so, with grain,
    With crumbs of bread,
    Men fight the force
    That makes things dead.
    So life may soar
    Nor all things fall
    Men give their bread
    As gifts to all.

    Like

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