Humans, at least the poets among them, both the established and also the wannabes like me, have on several occasions expressed the wish to be like birds. What exactly does that mean? Have plumes adorning their heads, grow colourful feathers sticking out of their butt, live in stick and mud homes, roost on trees, feast on insects or sip on honey? Nope, not at all. It is the supposedly carefree life, and being able to soar high in the sky that is of interest to them. What could be better, the major and minor poets chorus in unison, in verse after verse after verse, than being a bird?
If poets wax eloquent on bird life, can the common people (by that I mean the non-poets, both the established and/or wannabe kinds) be far behind? Hence they too can on occasions can be heard mouthing similar sentiments. Whenever aam janta finds time in their busy life to look out the window and catch a bird flying or going about its daily business of building nests from scraps and pieces of grass and what not, they sigh and say, ‘Ah! To be a bird!’
It would seem that the sight of a flying bird is the cue for the philosophical mode to be switched on in humans of all kinds. Birds don’t need to work in an office or slog in the kitchen. Or even meet the deadline from the publisher for that matter. They don’t need to take loans to build concrete structures and pay through their noses to have the interiors done before it can be worthy of living. A Malayalam songwriter of yore has gone so far as to suggest that we humans imitate them in real life. Birds don’t sow seeds, neither do they harvest produce, he makes the singer belt out for the hero of a black and white movie. In Malayalam, of course.
Are things all so hunky-dory in the bird world? Are the birds really so lucky? Don’t they have any cares? Don’t they have to work hard to feed themselves, and their offspring? Don’t they ever face dangers of any kind? Is their life one long picnic like humans make it out to be?
The other day I was standing at the balcony clicking a pair of rose-ringed parakeets. The parent birds were taking turns flying to and fro and feeding their chicks in turns. In between they took time off to chase the pesky mynas who had come too close to where their babies were holed up.
After taking umpteen shots of them all, I turned to go back in to make breakfast. I had just put the camera down when I heard the L&M exclaim, ‘Oh no!’ What? What? What? “You just missed it!” he said. “A black kite swooped down so low….” I was crestfallen. I could have captured the kite! “..and,” he continued, “carried away one of the parakeets to the coconut tree over there!” WHAT?!!! Oh no, no, no, no!That’s when I realised what I was hearing was the terrified squawks of a parakeet caught in the talons of a black kite. The ‘shrieks’ soon died down. The kite chicks were probably digging into their meal.
I was despondent the whole day thinking of the one left behind as much as the one that lost its life. Laws of nature. There was nothing I could do about it. Everyone has to eat. But one things is for sure, flying like a bird has its pitfalls that humans living in cozy homes do not appreciate. No one swoops down and carries you away to make a meal of you. Small mercies. Be grateful.
© Shail Mohan 2022