poetry

Eurasian Spoonbill, Chennai

The laborious bastards

Some choose to break free of their comfort zones late in their lives. Having been on auto-pilot mode, they feel tired and demotivated. The uninteresting routines. The cumbersome responsibilities. Each one saps a part of them dry and leaves them ghosted or shelved.

And one stray morning, something happens. The rubber band snaps. They realize that they are not happy; that time is not on their side. Frightened, they look to break to their routines. Make little changes that will pave the way for bigger and bolder transitions. Demand a butterfly to flap its wings one more time. Seize control of the future – without forgetting the past.

The determination lasts for a few months before their plans go kaput. And it occurs to them that it probably wasn’t a great idea to invest so heavily in a plan that sounds similar to Time Cop. Especially, when they can’t do half the things that Jean-Claude Van Damme does.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

White-Browed Wagtail / Common Mynah, ECR

Land of the free, home of the grave

I read what people have to say about national politics on Twitter. During lunchtime, I browse through newsfeeds that unattractively hog TV screens. That’s as politically-inclined as I can be. But I pay my taxes. And I form opinions. I don’t have kids. So I tend to take things personally. Especially, my ideologies.

Some nights I stay awake because of them. Thankfully, I don’t have to wipe their butts or pay for their education.

Since yesterday, I have been hearing about the recent India-Pakistan conflict from different sources. I wanted to offer an elaborate view on an age-old rivalry. Then, I realized that Edwin Starr had already sung, “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing”.

(more…)

Spotted Owlet, Chennai

You make me want to dance: Owlets

I have a sneaking suspicion that birds dance more than we may assume. Especially when they think that nobody else is around. I may have seen Owlets in action, without their knowledge. I can’t be sure. They may have just been belligerent about being spotted. Perhaps they had food poisoning. I am not an ornithologist. Or a reasonable person.

Besides, I don’t know anything about dancing. My left foot thinks for itself. We haven’t been on the same page for a decade. The right one has been fractured multiple times. Since 2012, it has suffered three hairline fractures, a shattered ankle, and two broken toes. But it’s no excuse. I have always danced with the grace of a rubber chicken impaled on the horn of an angry rhino.

(more…)

Indian  Eagle Owl, Nilgiri Range

Love at second sight: Indian Eagle Owls

About two summers ago, I was in Gudalur during a trip to the Nilgiri Hills – with a few friends. Barely five minutes after reaching the spot, we spotted a pair of Indian Eagle Owls. It was my first sighting. They flew past us, and into a section of the forest. And it all happened so quickly.

I couldn’t giggle over my good fortune. There wasn’t any time to react, much less – to celebrate. We kept our eyes glued on the couple, as they shifted their positions. But the light was fading fast. We couldn’t tell if we were looking at owls or a cluster of shadows. The evening sun blushed in sleepy orange and turned them into ghosts.

We hadn’t a clue where they were. (more…)

Grey Francolin, Pulicat

A single shade of grey: Francolins

Grey Francolins are regular sights for birders during morning hours in the drier parts of the Indian subcontinent. They look like domestic hens dressed in sensible brown suits.

As well-camouflaged as they are, Francolins are paranoid to the point of comic relief. We have made genial clowns out of each other. During my morning walks in scrub forests, I have startled them into skidding down muddy knolls. In return – they have knocked me off my sandals. It has been a match made in a Charlie Chaplin blooper reel.

A year ago, they were also a part of a magical experience I had.
(more…)

Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Thattekad

A portrait of the photographer as a Pygmy Woodpecker

I couldn’t photograph Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers when I first saw them in Thekkady. They were quicker than hiccups. Every time I tried, they would disappear behind branches. Soon, I grew impatient. In a matter of minutes, I moved on to the next spot.

In less than a year, I saw a flock of them in Thattekad. Again, they kept fleeing my camera’s frame. But this time, I decided to hang around. And as time went by, they warmed up to my presence. Some were kind enough to strike remarkably curious poses.

I don’t believe that good things happen to those who wait. If you really want something, you must go out there and see if it exists – the way you think it does. And if it is prone to sudden flight, like Brown-Capped Pygmy Woodpeckers are – you ought to hold onto it.

(more…)

Indian Eagle Owl, Tamil Nadu

To believe is to see: The Indian Eagle Owl

Until recently the Indian Eagle Owl was identified as a subspecies of the Eurasian Eagle Owl. She’s a femme fatale; as fierce as she is beautiful. She can be found in rocky regions and open scrub forests that are close to riverbanks or running streams.

Her shapely and scowling face looks carved out of the finest cobblestones.  She has mephistophelian horns and darkly-piercing eyes. And a warm pin-cushion for a plumage, coalescing in colours of brown and white, with blackened feathers that jostle with the wind.

(more…)

Malabar  Trogon (female), Thattekad

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.

(more…)

Malabar Whistling Thrush, Munnar

Birds aren’t musicians; they are songs

White-Throated Kingfishers sound like a jackhammer in the hands of a jazz drummer. Asian Koels can be mistaken for star-crossed strangers saying goodbye one last time. Black-Winged Kites shriek like they are auditioning for musical satires. If the world was any crueler, music labels would hire poachers to hunt down Malabar Hornbills, and steal their summer playlists.

The most beautiful bird call I have ever heard belongs to a whistler in an electric blue coat. Found in the Western Ghats, he is the Beethoven of alarm clocks.

(more…)