Pond Herons are one of the easiest birds to spot. They can be found all over the city. But I have never written about them. I barely photograph them. Every day I see them, alongside the distressingly-polluted Cooum River. They saunter through shallow waters, like stoned tap dancers, and hunt for crustaceans and small fishes.
Profundity has been amiss; the mind – adrift. I have nothing special to tell you about them. Because I haven’t learned anything valuable from them.
Whereas spotting a notoriously shy bird is an incomparable thrill. It is better than sex on a wintry morning or a really good sneeze. There are hurdles in traveling to a new location in search of some rare bird. The urge to overcome them is addictive. Especially, when there are dangers involved. Then, it gets exciting.
Because I need to be challenged in a way that makes me feel vulnerable. As vast and beautiful as our planet is, I don’t want things to be hunky dory between us. Give me a round of Russian roulette instead. Either I get hurt. Or I unravel some brief mystery about human existence.
It feels more rewarding to take these chances and keep the faith while bird-watching. I can pressurize myself to rise above the challenge. To be diligent, patient and hopeful. Waiting for years to see the crowned ivory prince of Asian Paradise Flycatchers. Falling down a slope before spotting an Indian Eagle Owl. Standing, painstakingly, underneath a tree for hours to catch a glimpse of a Great Indian Hornbill. These were the moments that I will remember dearly.
In other matters, I exercise a little more caution. I know that things can work out if I push myself. Leave my job and settle in a hill station. Tell someone how much they mean to me. Go cave exploring. Buy a farm and adopt a hundred puppies. But, the pratfalls seem too intimidating.
Whenever I have gone through with them, by fluke or fruition, the results were varied. At times, I have beaten the odds as cool instrumental music played inside my head. In other scenarios, I have found myself angry disappointed and wounded; definitely, worse off than before.
Still, I can cope with life’s calamities better than I can deal with its sedative passages. It is also probably why my closest confidants are emotionally unstable people and difficult-to-spot birds.
I do wish, during moments of weakness, that I can tone it down a notch. Be the sort of person who does not need constant stimulation. Someone who could spend more time with Pond Herons. After all, they are such beautiful creatures. I bet that I will feel peaceful around them if I get better acquainted.
But, as a smart fellow once said, “Peace is not merely the absence of war”.
Be like a wild stream,
unbroken and free, unlike
the gravel and rock
that rumble underneath
(Photographs: Chennai, Ponneri, Valparai & Kumily