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Rufous Treepies

Olanjali? What the heck is that?
It’s the name of a bird.
Ahh, a bird! Which one though?
The rufous treepie.
Hmm… I think I prefer olanjali. Quaint name

Everyone’s been going on and on about how Covid-19 was nature’s way of getting back at us humans who have been ‘killing’ the earth slowly but surely. The virus has succeeded in shutting everything down and keeping us indoors. The result? A clearer and bluer sky and Nature ‘reclaiming’ what supposedly belonged to it.

I am all for clear skies, but the plight of so many who are suffering – and who do not have the time or inclination to look up and enjoy the sight of a clear sky – does not let me rejoice about the blueness of the sky (Where I live, the sky is blue anyway, but you know what I mean). One curious thing I have noticed is how it is those who have a roof over heir heads and a full stomach, and don’t have to walk miles and miles across states to reach their homes, are the first ones to notice the blueness of the sky.

They also share pictures/memes of ‘Nature’ taking over what once belonged to itself, but was ‘usurped’ by humans. Pictures of deer relaxing on roads in a city, lions sleeping on paths of game reserves, a bear looking into a house, are all shared to drive home the point. Never mind that some of those pictures have been floating around on the internet much before Covid-19 made its appearance. There are other stories too, of dolphins and swans making their appearance in the canals of Venice, which was later debunked, though none seem to have heard that part of it.

What has all this got to do with Olanjali?

All the euphoria about birds and animals taking up space that humans have vacated made me hope and dream that the birds that have gone missing from in and around my place of residence will soon return and ‘reclaim’ their space. I waited day in and day out, with bated breath, but my visitors remained the same old gang. Crows, mynas and olanjalis.

Unlike the crows or mynas, olanjali is an early riser, a la koel. You can hear groups of them boisterously chattering outside my window, even before the sun is up. What I find terribly amusing, and entertaining, about the olanjalis is the different type of sounds they make. You almost get fooled into thinking there are more than a couple of varieties of birds out there. Or is that their secret intention?

If there is more than one olanjali around, there will be a hell of a racket going on. There is no question of them sitting quietly. Chatter, chatter, chatter, shriek, chatter, chatter, chatter, shriek. It goes on and on. The way they tilt their head and the expressions their faces hold while looking at each other (if that’s even possible), makes you imagine conversations they might be having, and also want to present them with an Oscar for best acting.

So what if the other regulars are missing! So what if no new birds have arrived because Covid-19 has cleared spaces of humans! The olanjalis were always here, and are still here, to make life interesting. By the way, what do you think could be the conversation happening between the olanjalis in the pictures below?

© Shail Mohan 2020