Bee-eaters can be found all over India. From metropolitan cities to ghosted forests about 5000 feet up in the Himalayas. They are identified by their curvy beaks and long tail-feathers. Some are born with blue beards and others blessed with roasted chestnut-colored skullcaps.
On bright summer days, the undersides of their wings hold sunlight. Like jet-propelled turquoise demitasses, they fly around in search of bees, beetles, and wasps. They spear them, remove their venomous stings and thrash the lifeless bodies into small portions.
It is as gruesome as it sounds. But nobody laments for the early worm. Cruelty maketh its fragile ecosystem. So, does ours. And we can complain about it on Twitter.
I have mixed feelings about pet dogs. While I want to kiss every dog I meet on its wet nose, I am unsure if it is a deep and purposeful bond. It seems to be a symbiotic bond between two emotionally-needy creatures. The Homo Sapien and the Felis Domesticus.
I had a pet Pomeranian called Terry. We grew up in the same household for 12 years. We were family. He came to us when he was two weeks old. Instantly, we became best friends. Because I lived in a neighborhood where there weren’t any other kids to play with.
He was mellower than the average Pomeranian. A goofball despite born an animal without a sense of humor. I loved him because he gave me a lot of attention. I suspect that he followed me around because I was a recurring part of his ecosystem. We felt safe around each other.
When I turned 30, I felt insecure about my age whenever I accidentally caught my reflection in the mirror. I groaned as I sauntered past glass-encased pillars and tinted car windows. It wasn’t about the wrinkles, the graying beard or the receding hairline. But in my eyes – there shone, ungallantly, a reminder that things weren’t going according to a sustainable plan. I thought about how much time had gone by in my life and how little it had amounted to.
I wondered each time if it was the universe’s way of asking me to choose the path I truly wanted to tread upon. I couldn’t commit to any sort of significant change back then. So, I did little things to convince myself that there still was hope for a brighter future.
Every time I did so, I felt guilty about being one of those middle-aged people who deal with aging, like babies do with skin rashes on their butts. If you haven’t handled a baby before, here’s a clue – they aren’t very bright.
Many birds feel shy around humans. Perhaps, they are just terrified. Why wouldn’t they be? Our species has a dubious track record. We are like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, except that we think we can repair the damage. Start all over again. Make everything bloom.
Look at me, for instance. I pollute the air that birds breathe in just by driving to where they live. I also contribute to a process that takes away food from their beaks. Yet I fetishize their existence. And I spend time promoting my passion for them instead of helping conserve their habitats.
Birds needn’t feel shy around me. They should be terror-stricken.
I was once privy to a fascinating dialogue between a pair of Racket-Tailed Drongos in the semi-evergreen forests of Vagamon. I had no idea what they were chirping about. But it looked like a heated debate. One seemed to intimidate the other. There was some dancing. It was theatrical.
The conversation lasted for about three minutes. They made up and flew away together. It was as though they suddenly realized they were late to a gathering of pixies. And that life was too short and difficult, and the universe – too unimaginably magnificent, to be wasted on disagreements.
Arguments between people stretch a lot longer than that. Many of them end on a sour note too. It’s like dealing with auto-corrections while typing on the phone. It doesn’t matter what one wants to say, the other will misinterpret it.
I wish the dead could speak. I don’t want to listen to family members talk about how much it hurts that they are gone. Or whatever their friends have to say about all they have left behind. Instead, I seek to find what went through their minds during the last few minutes of their lives. And I want to hear about it from them.
I dearly hope there was some pleasantness in the process. Perhaps, a well-produced vignette, capturing some of the best moments of their lives. A beautiful and haunting cello composition that picked up its pace for the second half. Faces of children, lovers, and pets. Sound-bites of promises kept. Pencil sketches of childhood vacations.
I don’t know what to think about House Crows anymore. They have become the cockroaches of birds. But it isn’t indicative of their statuses as unpleasant vermin. It just reflects my biases about certain creatures based on personal experiences.
I have always been katsaridaphobic. The reason being that cockroaches go out of their way to strike fear in my heart. They have charged me on several occasions. Maybe it’s all in my head. But I believe that cockroaches attack me without provocation. Especially those with wings. It’s like they can smell my fear and they want more of it.
Staring is India’s creepiest pastime. It is either a reflex action or a defense mechanism. We are like frightened and / or frustrated deer caught in the headlights of shrinking geographies and fading belief systems. It isn’t a problem exclusive to women either. Victims include people from other countries and young couples.
A theory is that our conservatism has made us meta-judgmental. Buzzwords like tradition and culture have stitched xenophobia into the fabric of our communities. It is so woven intricately into our mindsets that hyper-sexual gazing is a permissible social activity. Another theory is that we are sociopaths. Sort of like Lionel Richie in that music video in which he stalks a blind girl. And insinuates sexual tension before asking her “hello is it me you are looking for?”.
“Insects seem like they do everything that people do. They meet, they mate, they fight, they break up. And they do so with what looks like love or animosity. But what drives their behaviors is really different than what drives our own, and that difference can be really illuminating”
Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist/ecologist, spoke about insect behaviour in a TED Talk episode called What We Can Learn From The Kinky Sex Lives Of Insects. She deconstructed their mating rituals and drew intriguing conclusions about our own. I wish I saw insects the way she did. I can only hope that it dawns on me, one day, just how spectacular and adorable they are.
As a frequenter to hill-stations, insects are regular bed-mates of mine. We do weird stuff to each other at night. I accidentally crush them. They indiscriminately bite me. We can be kinky like that.
I saw two common mynahs chase a sleeping owlet out of her nesting hole on an upright snag. And then the mynahs started quarreling with each other. The owlet came back after they had flown away, fighting in mid-air as they descended upon a nearby tree. She didn’t seem pleased. That look of indignation on her face was heart-breaking.
It reminded me of when I had recently taken a friend out for dinner. Unfortunately, his office colleagues were seated a few tables away. Like hyenas, they came towards us. Their fangs were besmirched with inane banter; their eyes – thirsting for diversions. About 10 minutes later, I was ready to give up. Not just on making dinner plans, but on the nature of humanity.