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.
My friend finally shooed them away with his power of positive manipulation. But he looked a little apprehensive. He was getting ready for one of my misanthropic rants. It’s what I do when I am with friends. I tell them how much I don’t like everybody else.
It wasn’t the first time that people have been a disruptive force in my social life. In the past, such situations have had me eulogizing the rise of homo-sapiens as the apex predator. Lately, I have realized that I wait for people to goof up so that I can rationalize my anger towards them.
It’s why I don’t belong to social circles. I keep away from communities involving writers. Stay clear of group-based birding activities. Maintain a safe distance from social activism that involves Facebook updates or media coverage.
What people do with their lives or how they perceive social issues is of no significance to me anymore. Liberals, conservatives, politicians, racists, filmmakers, philosophers, corporate employees, religious nuts, atheists, pig farmers, poets or sex offenders – at times, they have the same effect on me.
However I can be the worst type. I am a hypocrite. I talk about how much I don’t like being around people. Yet I have relied on their kindness, irrespective of how much, to get me through hard times. And I continue to depend on each of you to keep writing in this space. Like James A. Baldwin once said, “the writer’s greed is appalling. He wants, or seems to want, everything and practically everybody, in another sense, and at the same time, he needs no one at all”.
The owlet, as annoyed as she seemed, was never belligerent about it. She went back into the hole on the snag. And she fell asleep about 15 minutes later. I didn’t rant at the restaurant either. Instead I ordered iced peach tea. Distancing oneself, while it can turn the mind into an invisible enemy, may be the best way to avoid internal conflict.
Teach me more, birdies. This could be the beginning of a beautiful and scholastic friendship.
(Photographs: Mahabalipuram, Chennai)