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Asian Fairy Bluebird (male)

In search of bluebirds and fairies

The scariest part of a downward spiral is the speed at which things fall apart. You are always a bad decision away losing it all. One phone call. Just one unexpected turn to find yourself in a bottomless pit. But life doesn’t come crashing down. It caves in. Crumbles under the weight of despair. Then, like some injured lizard, you try to pick yourself up. But you feel helpless. Uncoordinated. So, you collapse to the ground. And you just lie there, with fistfuls of dirt, tonguing your cheeks and hoping that this too will pass.

Conversely, when something good happens – seldom does it snowball into something more tangible. There are no formulas to sustain an unexpected burst of happiness. It can be a one-hit wonder that leads to sophomore slumps. Often, it just slinks away on its chubby hindlimbs.

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Spotted Owlet, Chennai

How to overcome writer’s block: Brush your teeth

A writer’s block can be infuriating. It isn’t a melody to go out of tune. Neither a slip of the painter’s brushstroke nor an itch on the sculptor’s wrist. It is akin to a difficult conversation with someone you love about where the relationship is going. If things are messed up, you must find a way to work things out. There’s just too much to lose.

But it isn’t easy. It can be paralyzing. A sharp blow to the eardrums. A lone whistle reverberates inside your head and seduces a series of dull aches. You have stared long and deep into the abyss. Now the abyss is staring at you and mouthing, “What are you looking at?”

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Scarlet Minivet - female, Anaimalai Hills

Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating

Is it okay to say that female birds are not as attractive as their male counterparts? Or does it make me a sexist? I can’t be sure. Because people pounce on others for saying things that they deem, personally, to be offensive. Context does not seem to matter. As long as they are upset, they will fight you tooth and nail over it.

But I like keyboard warriors, irrespective of their gender or the social cause they support. Generally, their English is good. For some reason, they smell nicer than the average person. And they watch interesting films. Some are passionate about fighting marginalization. Others try and assuage middle-class guilt through their actions.

I am unaware how much good they are doing for the oppressed communities. But it is sweet that they want to do anything at all.

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Grey-Headed Swamphen, Pallikaranai

You can handle the truth about Swamphens

Sometimes, I literally can’t see the forest for the trees. Only when I sit down to rest do I realize how tall they are. I start noticing how the branches bristle with life, death, food and music. I scratch my forehead and wonder why it took me so long to experience their grandeur.

The first time I spotted a Swamphen up-close, I saw an ugly side of me. It was a moment of realization. A fresh perspective. And I felt terrible about it.

Like someone once said – “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”.

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Green Bee-Eater - Vedanthangal

To be a bee-eater or not to be a bee

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.

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Grey-Headed Canary Flycatcher, Vattakanal

Yours animatedly

One of my favorite videos to watch online is a 1942 Looney Toons episode called The Squawkin’ Hawk. It features Foghorn Leghorn – a wisecracking rooster and Henery Hawk – a bird of prey with Napoleon complex and a foul temper.

Often I am in denial about how much I enjoy cartoons. They were once an important part of my life. Nowadays, I either pretend that I don’t have the time or that I uninterested. The truth is, I am not sure. At some point, I must have assumed it was a part of growing up.

Like finding a job, getting married or making babies – it is just something that most adults do.

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shutterstock_297059441

Born to be Wilde

Writing about social issues used to give me fake powers. Arms stretched out, I jogged across a building terrace – pinching the loose ends of my superhero cape. I was on a mission way to save lives. Tackle injustice. Analyze political quagmires. Make bold statements about societal norms. No fear of consequences. Always ready to fight the good fight.

When I reached the terrace’s edge, I put one foot up on a raised platform. I folded my left elbow and cupped the right shoulder with the center of my palm. I looked up to the sky before peering, heroically, at the city below. I saw all the people on the ground. So many of them needed help. They wanted to be rescued.

Sometime in the 18th century, playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton had suggested that the pen was mightier than the sword. It is hard to disagree because writing can be a potent instrument of change. At least, as long as writers don’t take themselves too seriously.

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Spotted Owlets, Pulicat

Sweet spotted child of mine

I often wonder if birds think that I am a stalker. A person with a fetish for voyeurism. Look at the facts. I follow them around. I try to escape their line of vision so that they don’t fly away. Then, I photograph them before coming back home to admire them.

I post it on restricted groups across social media. Engage others in the stories that led me to them.  And hope that they will come back for more.

I feel like the gatekeeper of an underground pornography racket. Excepting that, nobody is paying me for it.

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Common Hoopoe, Chennai

The unbearable short-sightedness of a Hoopoe lover

I have a tumultuous relationship with Common Hoopoes. Whenever I see one, disaster tends to flirt with me. I end up hurting myself, causing damage to property or making people suspicious of me. And I hear a sad violin solo playing in the background, as the bird flies away.

I was riding pillion on my friend’s motorbike when I first spotted a Hoopoe at a bird sanctuary. It appeared on the branch of a papaya tree. I hopped to the ground for a closer look. But I slipped and burnt the skin off my ankle on the bike’s muffler. I shrieked. Distracted, the bird flew away.

I was aghast when I realized what I had done. I made unhappy noises. My friend could have possibly thought to himself, “So this is what it sounds like when doves cry”.

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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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