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.