Bird Brain

Earlier this year, in winter, I started hearing the high-pitched cries of predatory birds near our home. This was new for me, because in the few years we have been here in Mumbai, I’ve only ever seen crows, pigeons, and sparrows in our area, with the occasional common myna and magpie making an appearance. Not exactly a smorgasbord in terms of avian life.

I’ve always been rather fascinated by birds and other flora and fauna, thanks to having grown up in a desert country. The books I read [Enid Blyton mostly] described leafy green trees, and birds with gorgeous plumage, but these didn’t translate into everyday life in Dubai. Perhaps that’s the reason our home was filled with living creatures: dogs, birds, fish, rabbits, and so on. This interest – and it is purely a mere interest – led me to take a somewhat keen if untrained look at my surroundings.

So when I heard these cries, I knew that a different type of bird had taken up residence in the area. Added to that, we saw fewer crows and pigeons in the area, and air was conspicuously lacking in their caws and coos. And then I saw it one day, perched precariously atop a tree: a brown kite.

Now, brown kites are not rare in the city. They are quite prolific in many areas, especially ones where there is an abundance of rats. I couldn’t fathom what had changed to make them come to our area, even though it was a mere few blocks away from their other habitats.

The kites didn’t stay for very long though. I think the summer proved too daunting for them here. But, nonetheless, it was tremendously thrilling to see one sailing around on its broad wings.

A few weeks ago, I was looking out the window and I saw a tiny bird hopping on the leaves of the tree outside the bedroom window. I’d never seen the bird before, and it was smaller than a sparrow. Its back was a greenish yellow colour, and it has a white belly. I wasn’t able to discern much more because it soon hopped off, and I didn’t have my glasses on.

I tried to Google the name of this tiny little creature, with a silver-toned voice. But no dice. Google evaded all attempts to discover its name.

Then, on Monday, I was applying makeup at the window, and I happened to have my contacts in. I suddenly heard musical chirps, and I looked out to see this beautiful little creature sitting a mere foot in front of me. It had an orange beak, and a grey head. It was adorable, and I figured I finally had enough information to locate it on Google.

However, that afternoon, I happened to chance upon a book about Indian birds. I pounced on it, and quickly flipped through to the urban birds section. And there it was: the common tailor bird.

There is nothing extraordinary about any of this, and honestly I will end up forgetting it happened altogether. But there was a great deal of simple joy at discovering something new about my environment.

Advertisements

The Yellow Shirt

I was scrolling through old photos stored on my laptop, as I am wont to do on occasion, and I came across a picture of my dad in his Yellow Shirt. [Yes, capital Y and capital S.] Although this story is oft-repeated in my family, I don’t think I’ve ever written it out here.

It all started when my mom bought me an over-sized lemon yellow shirt from a shop in our building. The shop’s name was Safwa [can’t believe I still remember this!] and she had paired it off with a denim divided miniskirt. I used to practically live in miniskirts, seeing as it was Dubai and there was none of the staring that is so prevalent in India.

Anyway, I loved that yellow shirt. It was cotton-linen and super comfortable. Plus, paired with the skirt, it made my legs look amazing. As a teenager, this was a very important criterion.

However, most unexpectedly, my father also took a shine to that shirt. What was a loose, baggy look on me, fit him perfectly. And I kid you not, he pinched that shirt all the time. If I wanted to wear it, it was usually in the wash after he had worn it, or he was actually in the shirt at the time. Being an uncharitable teen, obviously this bugged me no end. But because it was my dad, I let him get away with it, mostly confining my displeasure to half-hearted grumbling. To which he would reply: “It is my yellow shirt. You can’t borrow it.” My mother, wisely, mostly stayed out of the fray, although she did tell him off a couple of times.

It was a fun thing.

A year or so later, the shirt had been worn to death. Multiple trips to the laundry had reduced the colour and crispness considerably, and it was a limp and pale version of its former self. Which is when my dear old dad decided to “return” it to me: “Here. You can have your yellow shirt back now. I don’t want it any more.”

Cheeky devil. Of course he didn’t want it any more; it was faded and pale and looked like it would collapse any second. Harrumph. But he so loved the colour that we were thereafter perennially on the lookout for a replacement for him. The funny thing about my original yellow shirt was that it was meant to be an over-sized WOMEN’S shirt. This time around, we looked in menswear departments.

Years passed, and we finally found a pure linen one in Mumbai. It was the right colour, and my father pounced on it when we brought it home. He was so thrilled. And then proceeded to wear it out even more thoroughly than the first one, till one day we had to cut it loose. It had done its duty. This was some time during our stay in Goa.

In the interim, my aunt tried [and failed] to buy yellow shirts for him. She has, um, questionable taste in clothes, and couldn’t seem to zero in on the right colour, shape, or size. He didn’t like anything she bought, and the pile of rejected yellow shirts languished miserably in a corner of his cupboard.

Then we moved back to Mumbai, and I was occasionally inveigled into going shopping at Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel. One time, the four of us [mom, dad, the ex, and I] were traipsing through the mall, tuckered out by that point, when I passed by a Cottonworld store.

Seeing that much of their wares were in pastels, I asked my family to wait outside while I nipped in to check whether they had lemon yellow shirts. [By this time, finding the shirt had taken on quest-like proportions.] They did.

I ran back outside, and dragged my family back in. We excitedly bought a shirt that Dad LOVED. [And mom also picked out a white linen shirt for the ex, because: “How can I buy only for dad, and not for him?!” *rolls eyes*]

My father was ecstatic with the shirt. He wore it the very next day, to Matunga market. The same market where he decided to have a spot of lunch. South Indian lunch, to be specific. Dosa, chutney, and sambar to be ultra-specific. Sambar, which he then proceeded to spill on his brand new, much coveted, eternally longed-for yellow shirt.

I got home from work that day, and was greeted by an extremely sheepish father and a half-exasperated, half-amused mother. And the yellow shirt with a large orangey-brown stain down the front.

I’m with my mother on this one. Sigh. Groan. Giggle.

Crow Crap

Yesterday, I was all tied up in knots thanks to the kitten fiasco of the morning. This morning, therefore, I was relieved to see the kittens unharmed and gambolling about the yard. Nothing untoward had befallen them. Phew.

But. There was a crow, who was looking rather worse for wear. Sigh.

Some time last month, I saw two gargantuan black crows, bigger than the normal ones, fighting each other in the yard. They were at it hammer and tongs, and flew up between bouts. I thought nothing of it, since well, that’s nature after all.

Then last week, I saw one of the crows walking around in the yard. He [assumption] had settled in a pile of leaves, under a tree and was clearly hiding. There was nothing visibly wrong with the guy, but I reckon he couldn’t fly long distances. The other crow came to pick a fight a couple of times, but the grounded crow held his ground. Again, did not interfere. I later saw him walking alongside the trees and the wall, and later he flew up to perch on the wall. So he could fly, but not too much.

Today though. Different story.

I was taking a breather from my walk, and I saw a bedraggled big black crow come around the corner of the building on foot. He waddled towards me, so I made a short noise to alert him of my living, breathing presence. He stopped to look at me, and took a few steps closer, before trundling off to the wall.

I am guessing this is the same slightly wounded crow from before, and I was sorry to see his awful state. He huddled behind a tree, trying to look as small as possible I guess.

Soon though, I saw another big black crow standing in front of him. The wounded crow wasn’t the new crow’s immediate priority, as a human [me] was walking back and forth, and presented a potential threat. The new crow cocked his head and me, and observed my perambulations for a solid 2 minutes before deciding I was not about to pounce on him.

And then he turned on the wounded crow. Pecked at him, while raucously crying out. The other crow tried to defend himself, but was rather piteously objecting. I wasn’t far off, so I ran towards this scene of violence, and clapped hard to chase away the attacker. He flew up into the boughs of a nearby tree, and glared at me. The wounded crow huddled into a smaller pile than before and looked at me in fear.

I sighed, because what can I possibly do? I have no place to succour a wounded wild bird, nor do I have a vet on call. I don’t have any experience with treating birds either. The crow is clearly on his way out of this mortal coil, and I can only hope that his exit is as painless as possible.

That’s the second time I have had to intervene in animal matters in two days. I am sensing a pattern. I am not thrilled, because it leaves me feeling very dispirited and helpless.

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

Cat-astrophic

Ok boys and girls, another rant coming up. Expect emotional outbursts and incoherence, all rolled up into one nice little post. Maybe not so little. We’ll see.

This morning, I went for my morning walk. After days of suffering from rahter painful indigestion, I was feeling quite a bit better. So with a big dose of cheeriness, I trotted off downstairs.

Now for the past few weeks, there have been kittens in the yard. Adorable pair, one white and one black and white. Skittish of humans, of course, so I haven’t tried to pet them. I figure their life on the outside is going to be hard enough, without being desensitised to horrible humans. So I mainly left them alone.

Just look at how cute they are! OMG.

Over the past few weeks, as they’ve been getting older, the residents of my building [a sanatorium] have been feeding them. Or at least I think so. In any case, they have the run of the place. And honestly, at least to my knowledge, they’ve done nothing wrong.

A week or so ago, I saw a little boy kicking at them, and pushing them with a stick. I asked him to stop, and tried to make friends with the kittens. But obviously they were more comfortable with the stick-wielding child they knew, rather than this gargantuan stranger they didn’t. Fair enough. I resolved to leave them be, because I certainly couldn’t look after them.

Cut to this morning. Remember the cheery steps with which I ran downstairs? Ha.

It was a little earlier than my usual time, so there were several more residents out and about, since the caretaker *rolls eyes* comes in around that time. [Why I despise this piece of human garbage would take a long post to explain.]

Again, the residents mostly stay away from me, as I am a permanent tenant. And I look very different from them. They are mostly from villages and have a sick child in tow, and thus are dealing with a whole host of problems that are way beyond my pay grade. Today was no different; it was I who accosted them.

I don’t know why Indians have issues with stray animals. Leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. Learn to judge animal behaviour, so you can tell the difference between threatening lunges and friendly overtures. I just do not see the need to kick them. I DO NOT. It makes me see red, and I am more than often afraid of saying anything, because in my experience the animal pays later for that human’s humiliation.

But this is my building too. My turf too. I was having none of it. If only my Hindi hadn’t failed.

I saw a couple of men put the kittens into a gunny sack. At first, I couldn’t see what they were doing, but I did see one carry a kitten out of the compound. I smelt a rat. Went up to them, and asked them what they were doing. Was horrified to see one holding a sack aloft, and a small kitten head poking out the side.

They didn’t understand me, because in my state of stress, I forgot Hindi altogether, and was speaking in English.

So I tried again, this time in the most NRI, broken, miserable Hindi you can imagine: What are you doing?

They replied that they were taking them away. Where, I asked. Far away, so they don’t come back. Holding on tightly to my temper, because I was already incoherent with stress, why I asked. Because they are making a mess of the yard.

I tried to explain that cats in the area help with the rat problem. I tried to tell them that they were far too little to be taken away from their mother, and they would die. Just leave them alone I said. And they did. I guess it wasn’t worth getting into a discussion with me about it. The kittens were left to their own devices, terrified and shivering under a car, but mercifully out of the gunny sack. I went back to my walk.

Then the caretaker then showed up. He was talking about the cats, and I saw the conclave. So I marched up to him, still shaking I might add. What are you doing to the cats? Again, Hindi failed me, and the man doesn’t speak a lick of English.

What I finally gleaned from this whole miserable experience was that the old lady in the back of the building, also a permanent tenant, had objected to their presence. She complained that they were making the place dirty, with bits of food and detritus from garbage.

Don’t feed them then, I said. But leave them alone. They will eventually grow up and leave. He misunderstood me to say that I wanted him to kill them, which of course I didn’t. Thank you broken brain under stress. Finally, I made him understand that he needed to LEAVE THEM ALONE. Stray cats are more than capable of looking after themselves, what with the ample supply of pigeons, crows, sparrows, rats, squirrels, and so on that live in the area.

I have no idea if what I did was right. I am perfectly certain it fell far short of adequate and well-handled. All I know is that an old miserable hag of a human wanted two helpless little kittens to be taken away from their mother just because she objected to random detritus in the yard, which may or may not be because of the crows and the actual humans in the area.

I was so upset, angry, and mostly feeling like a complete failure that, for the first time in my life, I actually cursed someone to suffer as they would have caused suffering to innocent beings.

Sigh.

How To Make Non-Vegetarian Nimboo Paani

You will need:

  1. Almost empty container of honey
  2. 1 moron who has forgotten that her kitchen has the occasional ant. [For moron bookings, please contact my agent.]
  3. 1 lemon
  4. Ice
  5. Water

Steps:

1. Leave honey bottle out on the counter, and conveniently forget for several hours.
2. Come back to the kitchen and watch in fascinated horror as about 1 trillion ants march resolutely back and forth from the honey bottle.
3. Squeeze a lemon into a glass, and swirl cold water in honey bottle. Pour water + honey mix into glasses filled with ice.
4. Realise that ants have apparently decided to perpetuate a kamikaze pact, and have committed suicide in the honey. Their corpses were at the base of the bottle, and have now landed in your drink.
5. Add salt to taste. Stir.

Enjoy.

Perfection Time Capsule

I slowly want to reincorporate my old blog into this one, a few posts at a time. Here is one I found of a sunny morning in Goa, with my favourite people in the world.

I love my job (not the working culture, the nincompoops I deal with or the lack of process – but the actual JOB) but I do look forward to the occasional day off. I say ‘occasional’ because I rarely get a Sunday completely to myself at home, regardless of good intentions. Today started off on an awesome note, and I really hope the awesomeness continues into the day/week/month/year.

1. Got up late this morning. (8:45 am, in case anyone was wondering)

2. Crawled out of bed and padded my way two flights of stairs, to see mom still cuddled up under the covers with the cocker spaniel, and dad just disappearing into the bathroom. Mom was complaining bitterly that he woke up and therefore she now feels guilty about lolling around. I, of course, felt no such guilt and promptly jumped into my dad’s spot for a quick snooze. Bliss.

3. Cocker spaniel had other plans, and therefore decided that since my face was accessible to her, she must give it a thorough washing. She was unceremoniously shoved away, and dragged into mom’s arms for a cuddle. Happy me, happy mom and happy dog.

4. Dad comes out of the bathroom, and mom gets up grumbling. I ignore all such happenings, and the dog escapes from mom’s clutches to come and snuggle against my face. My face is now full of soft cocker spaniel fur. Love it.

5. Surface about 5 minutes later and hug father, amidst loud complaints that it is HIS room and HIS bed and she is HIS wife, and what right did I have to come in the middle? Smile seraphically at annoying father and amble into the cold to play with gambolling puppies. Heaven.

6. Play with puppies for a few minutes, and then get into long chat with neighbour about said puppies, my newspaper, the Hanuman chalisa and various other issues. Fun.

7. Amble back into the house, only to find father has disappeared to get milk and bread from the shops. Hinder mother’s bed-making by jumping on half-made bed and encouraging cocker spaniel to do so as well. Then proceed to complain loudly as both of us are thrown out of the bedroom and the door is locked behind us.

8. Dance around the kitchen to cheesy Bollywood tunes blaring from the kitchen speakers. Yes, we have speakers in the kitchen. No, I will not explain. Yes, I can be bribed to explain.

9. Get handed some more work by the father. Demand exorbitant payment to do said work. Get backed up by tiny mother. Outnumber father. Girlie power, yay.

A number of my perfect moments feature my parents and my dog. Unsurprising, really.

A Very Good Morning

One of my favourite parts of waking up each morning, back when we were living in Goa, was coming downstairs to be greeted by my dog.

I slept on the topmost floor, whereas her highness snuggled with my parents on the ground floor. Her bowls and basket were there too, so I reckon that had a part to play in her choice. There were times she came up to my room to snuggle with me, but those were few and far between.

Because our floors are tiled, we all wore slippers indoors. Mine are particularly loud, since they are made of hard rubber. They slap noisily against each stair, as I descended them every morning. My mum later told me that once she heard my steps, my dog rushed from wherever she was, and plonked herself at the foot of the stairs, staring upwards.

I used to come straight down to the kitchen, where all the action took place every morning. Of course my parents were always up before me, so they were invariably bustling about. The first thing I saw though was my dog waiting for me.

As I came into view, she used to get impatient. And her way of displaying impatience was to shift from one front paw to another. I don’t think she even realised she did that. It was adorable.

I reached the bottom stair, and madam raised herself off her haunches and put her front paws on my thighs. I used to put my arms around her body, sinking slowly to the floor in a crouch. Her paws used to slide around my waist, so she first sank to her haunches again, and then lifted her paws to my chest. I hugged her, as she licked whatever bits of my face and neck she could reach.

It was the very best part of my morning, and my whole world shrunk to her in that moment. My mum used to get fairly annoyed, because she was usually trying to get my attention, but I was far too absorbed in my dog. Unrepentantly so, I might add.

There are many reasons why those moments were so precious, especially now that my dog is no more, but at the time, she was a pricey git, and I used to crave her attention. Each morning, affection and attention was willingly bestowed upon me, and me, the peasant, gratefully accepted.