I love photographing birds. It feels so exhilarating that I am willing to walk out on any part of my life for it. But first, I must buy a professional camera. Then, figure out a way to make people pay me for it. It’s a pipedream that may take another decade to evolve into a purposeful plan. And even though I can wait, it probably won’t work out in my favor.
Good things don’t happen to those who contemplate. They happen to those who make the first move. And the heart often wants what the brain can’t make sense of. It wasn’t a career I had ever thought about before. Not until I spotted a Black-and-Orange Flycatcher one rainy afternoon.
Black-and-Orange Flycatchers are endemic to the high altitude sections of Western Ghats. It is difficult to photograph them because they fly back and forth at top speeds.
Many summers ago in Vattakanal, I had managed to sneak up on one. It was an adult male. Wearing bright orange juice stains on its velveteen sweater, he looked angrily at me. Perhaps, he wasn’t happy about being ambushed by an ogre of an ogler. He fanned his tail and chirped as I clicked some photographs of him.
I felt something. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. A state of elation that I was unaccustomed to. It wasn’t the allure of being able to earn a living through this. I wanted to be wide awake and dreaming. I wanted to spend a major part of the rest of my life with birds.
Over the next three years, I spotted one in Valparai and another in the upper section of the Palani Hills. But I wasn’t able to take a photograph on either occasion. They were too fast for me.
Last year, I spotted one in the bird-friendly Adukkam village. I followed the bird to an artificial water body where it hid behind a cluster of tiny branches and leaves. We went back and forth, making eye-contact, exchanging whistles and playing peekaboo. The affair went on for around 30 minutes before I finally got the chance to take a photograph.
Then, it hit me again.
How wonderful it must be to photograph birds for a living, without worrying about financial or emotional investments. Happy. Calm. Without stress. There is no sadness. No disappointments. No distractions. No unnecessary movements. And I am led to believe that despite the gloom and doom, the world is full of love.
keeper of bees,
a honeycomb in heat;
a trail of wild ember
on the run,
with fig leaves
that tickle the
(Photographs: Vattakanal, Adukkam)