Home is where the Hoopoes are

The Common Hoopoe  is supposed to be a commonly-found resident in my city of Chennai. But I haven’t spotted a single one in my neighbourhood. I have seen them many times on the outskirts. Every time, they hijack my gaze. Detoxify the air in my lungs. Then, leave me breathless.

I can’t imagine getting any work done if I knew that they were lurking outside my house. I will end up getting fired for absenteeism. Evicted by the landlord for not paying rent. Alienated by friends after ignoring their phone calls. Relatives will frown at me for abandoning a functional life in order to stare at hoopoes. My parents will think I am mad.

Things will be said. Calls will be made. And soon, nice people in white uniforms will take me away to a happier, quieter and more padded place.

The first time I saw this gorgeous bird, it looked like a butterfly caught in a gentle sandstorm. It wore a fawn-coloured Vaudevillian crest and black-and-white cabbage patch plumage that gleamed proudly in the sun. Its beak was the stuff that picture storybooks should be known for.

It was as if I had caught Mother Nature in a benevolent mood. I wanted a tree branch to lean over and whisper to me, giggling, “You are welcome”.

Despite having spotted the hoopoe enough times to make us seasonal lovers, it still looks breath-taking. Often I see them, sunbathing with gusto, in the East Coast highway. I stand there and ogle at their gorgeousness until it becomes uncomfortable for one of us.

I am hypnotized by everything they are, and all the things I can never be.

I stare at them until they fly away.

How can even I concentrate on anything else if I find hoopoes outside my window?

I will be unshaven for months. The kitchen will smell like it hosted a rave party of skunks. Children will hear rumours about me. They will pelt small objects at me as they pass by the “crazy bird man”. In response – I will snarl and wave my field guidebook – Birds of the Indian Subcontinent – at them.

I will complain about how the hoopoes don’t visit often enough, without realizing that nobody is listening anymore. Also, that Michael – my best friend – is, in fact, a broken alarm clock.

Common_Hoopoe

Perhaps, it worked out well for everyone that they don’t haunt the neighbourhood I live in. I still haven’t figured out how to put the love I have on a leash.

Please wait until I visit you, my precious hoopoe. Or else your beauty will be the wreck of me.

A sweet promise
sung over a melody
over and over again.
Birds are butterflies
are untied shoelaces.

(Photographs: Chennai)

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16 comments

  1. This actually brought back memories. I grew up in Dehradun and Common Hoopoes were everywhere. As a child I loved their bird-call and thought that they were related to zebras! Thank you for your lovely post and photos – I remembered some lovely times from my childhood. I think they must be the wild forests’ original samba dancers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In Bengali we call the Hoopoe, Mohan-Chura. A beauty of a name given to them by someone in love with these sweeties. Is there any local name for them? Your words are like their call in lonely afternoons taking one to a dreamland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sumana, you’re much too kind.

      In the hill stations I ve been to, the locals refer it to as Mara Kothi, which is the traditional name of the woodpecker.

      “Mohan Chura” sounds like the song it deserves to be!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful with more artistically designed french hat! Certainly your pics speak for its beauty! Your words ..they make me feel shameful for never having seen this crowned beauty despite having spent years in and around Chennai! Hope I get to see one soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. French hat indeed! So splendid that it couldn’t have been by our design hehe must be the work of the wind in cahoots with the trees!

      I really hope you see one soon. They can be found all over Kerala too, so I am sure you will!

      Liked by 1 person

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