Times of India
April 11, 2014
Sometime ago I shifted to my new home in a colony with concrete structures all around. But to my surprise I noticed some beautiful birds of several varieties hovering and disappearing. Now after some years when I have developed a small garden with a lawn covered with thick grass, dainty looking bougainvillea, red bottlebrush and beds flooded with seasonal flowers–these birds have come to stay. They appear in the morning and make my garden gloriously musical scattering short musical notes everywhere. The result is the garden reverberates with sounds of their long and short notes. Can we compare this with the music of heavenly spheres? I don’t know .But this is definitely the most soothing sound on this earth. As morning changes into day their enthusiasm ebbs out a bit. Gradually as sun goes up higher in the sky, only the birds that have made the garden their abode make their musical presence felt.
I have a raat ki rani near my bed room. From there in late afternoons I invariably hear a shrill coooo which at times continues in the same pitch for as long as fifteen minutes as if a nagging wife is trying hard to prove her point and I understandingly smile. Sometimes a flock picks up a quarrel and the music gives way to matter-of –fact harshness, and ends in chaotic maddening sounds. It goes on and on and ends only when threatened by somebody’s presence. In the evenings, especially in the summers, birds come in groups. One group takes a trip around the garden, inspects the flowers, impressed gives out a hearty musical gift and leaves. Soon after another group alights, with a regal strutting gait walks on the lawn, seems pleased, sings for a while, and reluctantly as if resumes its journey. The bottlebrush suddenly becomes a busy place. Tiny birds with shiny sheaths on, in thousand postures insert their short and long beaks inside the red hanging flowers and with happy gurgling sounds make it a melodious corner. The sight looks as if an ice- cream man is surrounded by small children in a park. As light dims the sound too becomes scarce. Out of the blue appears a single thirsty bird, looks here and there and if I have watered the plants, sucks the drops falling from the glistening ivy leaves, sends a hasty thank -you note and disappears.
To my utter dismay the curtain creeper in my garden has become a hanging maternity home of birds. One pair gets busy collecting straw and soon builds a smooth nest on the bed made of interwoven leaves and twigs, lays two or three eggs, very much in tune with WE TWO OURS TWO and leaves to me the arduous job of saving these from the attacks of the neighboring cat. The newly weds, very confidently placing their trust on my motherly instincts, perch themselves nearby. When I am not there during any possible attack, I am very rudely summoned up by deafening shrieks. The long labour at last ends into colourful noisy dividends. One fine morning I see two bundles of bubbling energy tumbling on the lawn and parents hovering above them. In the next two or three days the walk becomes more sure, the head more steady, the shrieks more melodious and before I realize anything I see them sitting smugly on a tree outside my garden. Oh they have taken a flight to enter the wide world. The wise parents, loving their children well enough to set them free, leave too. A new couple becomes ready to rear their children and me – to handle my job of looking after my feathered grandchildren.
When I visited Keats House in Hampstead I saw the garden which gave birth to a Nightingale now immortal in English literature. I was reminded of my surroundings. But then Keats was made of magical stuff who was willing to die listening to the ethereal song of his Nightingale —
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thy art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
We the lesser mortals cannot take those imaginative flights on the wings of poesy with the birds but do feel happy nonetheless when these tiny winged creatures pour forth their soul in ecstasy.