writing

White-Throated Kingfisher, Padur

Winter is unbecoming

Over the past two weeks, Lady Luck has been on my side. I saw nearly 50 Ashy Woodswallows. Over fifteen Spotted Owlets. Three spiffy Sparrowhawks. A flock of hyperactive Eurasian Spoonbills foraging for food; they looked like giant headless chickens, clad in priestly gowns, playing ice hockey. A White-Throated Kingfisher at war with a pond crab. And a Glossy Ibis finally decided to let me close enough to photograph it.

If my semi-charmed life was a movie, these sightings could be indicative of some grand design. But the truth is that birding season is a month away. The first fleet of winter visitors has already descended upon burnt soil of ours. Even the local bird sanctuary has opened its gates earlier than usual; its lake brimming, despite the scarce rainfall.

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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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Spotted Owlet, Chennai

Sweet painkiller of mine: Siruthavur Forest

Weekends are usually when I go bird-watching. I drive to different parts of my city’s outskirts to photograph residential and migratory birds. I love writing about the experience too. It has become a favorite routine of mine.

But, I couldn’t go out during the weekend that just passed. Because I had recently sprained the lower part of my spine. And I was told that for about a month, my body would ache whenever I had to sit upright. Whether inside a car or in front of the laptop.

So, this morning, I drove about 60 kilometers away to spend time with the birds of the Siruthavur reserve forest. I had a great time despite the discomfort. It wasn’t as though I overcame adversity in the pursuit of passion. No doubt that such theatrical nobility would have been amiss. It was one of those things that could have happened to anyone.

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The right hand doesn’t know what the left brain wants

Bad handwriting has been a source of embarrassment and anxiety in my life. Whenever I write in cursive form, the alphabets resemble ouroboroses in heat. Unglamorously entwined yet madly unhinged. I am saddened by it. Perhaps, as a writer – I feel obliged to be better at this.

I remember the first time when someone had asked me to sign on a piece of paper. I wrote down my initials as precariously as I could. It was as though someone had finger-walked me through it. My signature remained unchanged for about 8 years. Then, I had to come up with a new one at the behest of a lawyer.

As for my handwriting, it remained awful over the decades.

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Spotted Owlet, Vedanthangal

The blogger who doesn’t have a Ferrari to sell

I remember a conversation I had with a friend about blogging a few years ago. I was making light of my attempts during the mid-2000s. In hindsight, I realized that I had made a few assumptions. One was that my older blogs were failures and the second – that the current one is a success.  The third involved my friend’s nasal hair. I doubt if that is either a matter of interest or a point of concern for anyone else but him.

I jumped on the bandwagon sometime in 2004. For a decade, only a handful of people knew of it. I rotted away in digital elephant graveyards. I kept pretending that the lack of readership didn’t matter. I convinced myself that blogging was just a playground for writers.

A quiet place where we showcased our love for language. Shared our eccentric opinions on life. As if readers were predisposed to give a crap about it.

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Munnar

Speak now and forever hold your peace

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.

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Flame-Throated Bulbul, Palani Hills

To read or not to bleed: Palani mountain blues

I traveled to the Palani mountain range over the weekend. I went birding in its moist deciduous forests. From Flycatchers and Flowerpeckers to Sunbirds and Bulbuls, they came to me, brimming with love. Raptors of different sizes graced the skies. A large blue butterfly dropped by to enchant me. Also, I saw an Indian Rock Python scampering across the road at dusk.

But I was preoccupied all the while. Given the company, I was unexpectedly distracted.

I blame it all on Jean-Paul Sartre. I was reading Intimacy during the overnight bus ride. I stumbled upon something so beautiful that I had to put the book down. It sent shivers down my spine; the way a winter morning blows cool air into a bird’s nest and bristles its twigs. But then, it poured gasoline all over me and burnt to crisp any half-baked clarity I had about the universe.

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Pied Kingfishers, Chembarambakkam Lake

You can’t run, but you can write

Writing might feel like a strange purpose when you aren’t paid for it. You should keep at it because improvement only comes with practice. However, a writer’s pursuit for perfection is a never-ending journey. That’s a fancy way of putting it. The truth is that there are neither zeniths for us to attain. There are no moon landings. No timeouts either.

But there are are perfectly-valid reasons for you to stop procrastinating and start writing.

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Asian Fairy Bluebird (female)

It’s not over until a lady bird sings

I used to write about birds and deduce parallel conclusions in relation to our lives. Lately, it’s been the other way around. I have been focusing on our dreams. The love we borrow. Some of the obstacles we face. The evil we are capable of.

I have shared a lot from my personal life too. The little things I do that makes me special; whatever I have been through that makes me so precious. Ugh. I just want to hug myself so tightly. So eagerly that I fall off the bed, or down a flight of stairs – like a panic-stricken Smeagol, and collapse into a smoldering heap of pain and despair.

But I will be okay. I know that karma can be cruel. I shifted the subject matter from birds to human beings. It’s only fair that now I have to drink soup through a straw for two weeks.

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Spotted Owl, East Coast Road

How I met my grandfather

I am glad that birds don’t remind me of people. I wouldn’t enjoy the catharsis. There are two exceptions though. One is the Small Blue Kingfisher, which stirs up the love I have for my niece. The other – Spotted Owlets – that remind me of my maternal grandfather – Mr Clarence Motha. Unknowingly, he has been the most influential person in my life. At one point, we had not exchanged a word for nearly 10 years. We even barely even saw other.

Like Leo Tolstoy once said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. What is happiness anyway? Normalcy? No thanks.

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