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.
Over the past 11 months, I have spotted and photographed 200+ birds in South India. I have also spent the year working on two documentaries. It means that I was not gainfully employed. So, time was on my side. I got to watch birds every single day. I was on the lookout for bird poop that drizzled from above. The thin branches that swayed when all else remained still. Dancing phone lines, scissoring through cities and forests, on which they perched upon. Quick movements in shrubs and bushes.
But, it was mostly several gigantic strokes of luck. I saw them wherever I went. Soon, I started to believe that the birds found me as often as I searched for them.
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.
No year has ever gone by without its share of obstacles. Except when I was 8 years old. Yeah, that was a good year. It must be the same with you, right? I hear people talk about their ups and downs. Isn’t that how things work? At least, I hope so. I will feel a little better knowing that your life, consistently, has shitty moments in it too.
I know that you aren’t sure why you feel depressed. You try and hide it because you can’t find its source. You fear judgment from others. The ones you know and those you cherish. They won’t understand what you are going through because you don’t either.
So you avoid thinking about it, but it doesn’t go away. Whenever it comes, you feel sick in your stomach. Your press your fingers against both sides of your scalp to assuage the dull quaking in-between. But there is no escape. No crack in the wall through which you can squeeze yourself out.
No hole in the ground you can fall through and disappear for a while.
I travel alone to the hills because it’s how I want to experience the world for now. It’s not as though I am one with the sand and the sky or anything fancy like that. I just feel interconnected to the sum of their moving parts. It also lends itself more to discoveries, life-changing or merely chimerical. The more people I am surrounded with – the less likely I am to feel the pulse of the environment. And it’s not just because how loud and obnoxious they can be.
Exploring a town, a village or the woodlands is an exercise in self-centeredness. I couldn’t be more self-absorbed. If one travels with like-minded folks, it can be a delightful experience. A sharing of primordial sensibilities and digestible proportions of love and laughter.
However, with the wrong individuals, travelling can be stressful. A nuisance like no other.
People can be strangers. Even the ones we know and love. They can be empty in places that we aren’t, which can lead to miscommunication. False expectations and heartbreaks.
Birds make for much more reliable companions. It doesn’t matter that their calls are lost in translation to our ears. We can still understand and respect them. In turn, they will trust us enough to share their lives. At least a few special moments. As long as we go out birding with a good heart and a sound mind, we will be loved in some amount of loose change.
As a writer, you are probably more self-absorbed than the average person. You find it cumbersome to socialize. You hate confrontations when it is your turn to listen. I am not saying you can be moody too. Just that there are motherless honey badgers in the Kalahari dessert with shorter fuses. Only in language have you found the comfort you need, without feeling inadequate about expressing your emotions. For you, writing is more than a celebration of the art form. It is your bomb shelter. Your refugee camp. You take it way more seriously than you should.
It is perhaps why you egg, at times, those you interact with to physically harm you or give up their respective belief systems to consider placing a voodoo curse on you. So here are five things – as a writer – you (we) can do to avoid getting punched in your (our) faces.
I believe that it is imperious to tell people how to live. You can tell a friend that it might be a terrible idea to share his bank account details with a Nigerian Prince over email. But you can’t just go around, saying things like “you won’t know who you are until you travel” or “quit your job and paint the sky”. While these sound like great ideas, they may not be universally-applicable. People might end up even more clueless about themselves and more xenophobic about the world. Or exposed to toxic paint fumes.
Similarly, some people need a fully-loaded corporate environment to live as functional citizens. Without politicking over promotions, their lives just would not be complete. Without scheduled bathroom breaks, they might end up with bloated livers. If they didn’t exert superficial dominance over those they consider to be lower on some imaginary totem pole, they might do weird things to blind kittens in the privacy of their basements.
Having said that, here are 8 reasons why some people should quit their jobs and unlearn voodoo.