Back to the future: Indian Paradise Flycatcher

I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that two weeks ago, I finally spotted the white-morphed Indian paradise flycatcher. It flew into the crooked window of my heart while I was returning home after a birdwatching trip. I slammed the brakes as soon as I caught a glance from the corner of my eye.

I have seen the female paradise flycatcher many times. I have also seen the cinnamon-morph male whose tail is just as spectacular on two separate occasions. But the white-morphed Indian paradise flycatcher had been avoiding me for nearly four years.

I grabbed the camera and got out to track it down. And things quickly became emotional.

My eyes started to well up because I could not help but remember Raj, a close friend who had died of suicide. In 2014, we had spotted a female paradise flycatcher a couple of kilometres from this spot. I clutched the base of the camera and grinned – thinking about how excited Raj would have been.

After following the bird for a hot minute , I saw it snare a large pink moth and settle on a branch. Its iridescent crest glistened and its milk-white tail-feathers whirled – like intoxicated dervishes. And when it flew away, I blew a kiss and waved, repeating, “Thank you”.

It was a welcome surprise from the one I had a few weeks ago.

The bad news is that I have been diagnosed with a severe disc prolapse in my lower back. It has knotted a bunch of nerves connected to my left leg. And I have to go through a major spinal surgery soon to reduce the pain. There is no cure for the condition, but I may return to my routines with the right treatment.

The doc has advised me to remain cautious for the rest of my life because even a single unfortunate slip could cause a relapse. And during the rehab period, which could last months, I won’t be able to go out to spend time with birds or sit down to write without undergoing a considerable amount of pain.

In fact, I have not gone out birdwatching after that glorious morning because my condition had become much worse. I still cannot sleep for more than 45 minutes to an hour at night. Some friends have offered to help, but I do not want to meet anyone. I have a nasty habit of transferring my wounds to the nearest and most familiar targets.

It is one of the reasons why I fell in love with birds. There are no guarantees, no matter what camera I buy, how early I wake up, or where I go. The best I can do is show up on time and give them the respect they deserve. Even if I find them, they do not hang around for too long. We never give each other enough time to get hurt. It is why every encounter, let alone a memorable sighting of an elusive bird, seems serendipitous.


Lately, I have been obsessing over how I might have missed out – if I had started the car even five seconds later or had been distracted by something else while driving.

The more I replay the moment inside my head – the better I feel about having my back up against the wall. It keeps me focused on getting better so that I can spot another white-morph paradise flycatcher in the future.

(Photographs: Ponneri)

30 thoughts on “Back to the future: Indian Paradise Flycatcher

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  1. Awww shit, indeed. Thinking of you and hoping you find ways to cope. Our North American flycatchers are no where near as dramatic and photogenic as yours. Magnificent. I’m glad you spotted her and that you let us know what is going on with you. I was wondering.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Speaking of dramatic, one of the things that had me feeling suffocated was that I couldn’t write earlier on this blog and communicate with my readers. It’s probably the most fruitful relationship I’ve ever had, and it felt un-watered.

      Thank you for your kind words, Susanne. Into the good night, we shall soar – with the birds of paradise et all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear of your diagnosis, being intimately familiar with your condition may I offer a bit of advice. Learn to traverse stairs very gently, avoid jumping or any motion that causes vertical jarring of the spine, do not carry heavy loads while walking, and learn to lift with your legs not your back. Wear wool or cushioned socks and shock absorbing/soft soled shoes and retrain yourself to sleep on your side with your legs together, not in a semi-symmetrical half-twisted position. (A pillow between your legs may also be helpful) It will take time, but with a few modifications to your routine you should be able to adapt. Best wishes my friend, and welcome to the world of the unexpected.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gosh, I am so grateful that you recommended a sleeping posture. I have been having trouble with it for the past few days. The shock-absorbing material is a sound idea too. I shall follow thy orders.

      Thank you so much D&C ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That flycatcher is an amazing looking bird. Lovely photos of it. So sorry about your back and leg… hope it gets better soon so that you can return to your feathery-loves.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Back in 1966, when I was 11, I complained about something to my wise old grandmother, to which she replied, “Oh, boo hoo. There are many people in the world worse off than you.” That was a common expression from her during the 7 years I lived with her. I never forgot that, though, and whenever something is ailing me, either physically or mentally, I always remember what she said and I go off in search of that someone who is worse off than me to see if I can help them. In my senior years now, I usually just donate some money to some organization–SPCA, Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Russel. I may be unsure if my level of altruism will change. But it makes me feel good that there are those who think you like do. I don’t mean to sound like I am exaggerating but it’s honestly why the world hasn’t gone complete ape-shit.

      Your grandmother was wise indeed, my friend. Thank you again for your kind and wise words too.


      1. To quote the cop in Aboorva Sagothargal, “saar, noooo silly feelings”.

        Because like Bill Hicks once quipped – “It’s always funny until someone gets hurt, then it’s just hilarious”.


        Liked by 1 person

  5. Four years ago, I lost my sight. Before that time, like you, I reveled in Nature wanderings, feasting my eyes on the infinite wonders of that world. For months after blindness, I was in a dark depression, my life now devoid of the pleasures that Nature had afforded me. One day, through the marvels of a computer that talks to me, I discovered you and your blog and was again connected to visions I so dearly missed. yes, being blind sucks but it has pushed me to reach out and discover new ways to share life with other good human beings. I treasure listening to your magical word journeys.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gosh, Tio, thank you immensely for your courage and kindness. I have told you before, your comments, two years ago, were what inspired me to sustain this blog on a regular basis. I feel honored that you are able to reconnect to nature through birds. It’s the stuff that makes writing and birdwatching so pleasurable. Thank you again.

      I have a stronger reason now to get better soon. I want to do my little part in keeping you close to nature.


  6. Hope you’re right as rain and free of pain soon, my friend. Your inspiration still reaches across the oceans, through the long stretch of time in between — wrote a poem. Will be back soon. ‘hugs’

    Liked by 1 person

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