life

With my back to the future: Asian Paradise Flycatcher

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I have finally spotted the fully white-morphed Asian Paradise Flycatcher. A mere week after the wild cat sighting, the flycatcher flew into the crooked window of my heart for the very first time.

During the Christmas weekend, while in Ponneri, I saw the flycatcher breakfasting on a large moth. It was a breathtaking sight. How beautifully its iridescent crest glistened. The whirling dervishes that were its milk-white tail-feathers. Unable to contain my emotions, I cried. Not in a way that makes passersby smile at how kind and wonderful this deranged blue planet can be. It was sort of awkward. Weird-sounding. There was definitely some reverse-blowdrying of the nose. I had been waiting for the moment since 2013, after all.

On January 2, though, bad news arrived. I was diagnosed with a disc prolapse in my lower back. And it had struck a nerve that is connected to my left leg. There isn’t a cure for the condition. However, with the right treatment, I may be able to return to my routines.

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Happiness is leaving on a stolen jet plane

I think Con Air, a movie about a plane hijacking, has some of the worst dialogues ever. But I have seen it over 30 times. I can’t help myself. It’s like stopping by a highway accident to assess the carnage. A cat-and-mouse game we play with our minds. We may grimace at the sight of blood. Yet we stick around to look for brain matter on the road.

Another reason is that Steve Buscemi plays a serial killer called Marietta the Mangler. In my favourite scene, he describes a fellow crook as being so angry and troubled that happiness, for that gentleman, hurts.

When I first heard the line, it sounded preposterous. Now, I get it. Happiness can hurt. It’s why I watch Con Air whenever I get the chance.

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Why Malabar Trogons think everything will be okay

I took a 6-hour detour to visit the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. I wanted to see the Malabar Trogon. There were supposedly many of them in plain sight in certain areas. I longed to spot just one. Just to be double sure, I booked a local birder to be my field guide for a morning trail.

I woke up at 5 AM, got stung by a wasp hiding in my left shoe, and had the worst tea in a long time. The sky was overcast. I was losing confidence about spotting the Trogon. Negativity was starting to bubble inside me. A short drizzle had me panicking.

To distract myself, I stared at the banners outside the sanctuary gate. They showcased the brightest, bluest and most bewitching of endemic birds. Each looked like it fell out of a dream and straight into a paint bucket.

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When humans attack

Nobody knows what they are capable of unless the situation demands it. Heroism isn’t hereditary. Circumstances make people do extraordinary things. Most of us would like to think we are capable of some bravery in the face of danger. However, when the threat is posed by a wild animal, valor can be misplaced.

In 2013, during an Indian gaur attack, I ran faster than I ever realized I could. A friend, and a tribal kid were with me. But I didn’t look back to see if they were safe. Instead I took off, leaving a cloud of cartoon smoke. They did too. I knew that if I had turned around, I might have been gored. We were a just few meters away from an alpha gaur. That’s nearly 1000 kilograms of power, agility and anger charging us at an alarming speed.

Sure, I like my friend. The kid had a charming disposition too. But I liked increasing the odds of my survival a lot better.

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Let’s talk about death

What if you could bring back to life
a loved one in small portions?
Would you pick a nose hair
or a toenail or saliva stains
on a glass of chai?
Or would you need something
more wholesome to remember them by?

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