A pilot turned princess turned pop star

She’s
a pilot,
with burnt
postcards
of sunsets
in her back-
pockets,
sketching
summer skies
in space
cadet blue.
She’s a
princess
turned
troubadour,
a pop star
unhinged
at dawn,
crying foul,
sensing the
human in you.

Indian Roller, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
Indian Roller, Vedanthangal

The India Roller or the Blue Jay is the State bird of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. It can be found in abundance in several parts of north and south India. They are a common sight near water bodies. Beaches, rivers, lakes and marshlands in and around Chennai are haunting grounds for them.

The very first time I had spotted the Indian Roller was along the East Coast Road, a scenic highway that connects the city of Chennai to Mahabalipuram – a tourist town in the Kanchipuram district.

I was driving back home on a Saturday after a heavy breakfast. And I noticed a couple of birds I had never seen before. They were dipped in brightly-lit blue. I was sure I saw a patch of gold in there too. I wasn’t a birder back then and so I didn’t stop for a second glance. Or fall in love with them, and expect postcards. I saw them again a few kilometers ahead. But I drove right through. I had my priorities all mixed up.

A couple of months later, I was speeding on the same highway at the crack of dawn, listening to musicians with sadder problems than mine. I was going through a bad phase in my life. I was beginning to lose my hair and my mind. I parked my car by the side of the road to smoke a cigarette. And then, they showed up again. A pair of beautiful Indian Rollers, with their eyes bathed in cranberry sauce and metal-blue wings burnt to golden-brown perfection. It wasn’t a moment that felt cathartic though. I did not drop down to my knees, throw my arms up in the air and shake my fists at the world for being so unforgivably beautiful. I just told myself that I should come and see this bird more often.

Ever since, I have seen this gorgeous girl on hundreds of occasions close to the water-bodies near Old Mahabalipuram Road, Adyar, Vedanthangal, Pulicat and the Chennai-Bangalore highway. I sometimes take them for granted these days.  Other times I still stand, with my jaws wide open, wondering what sort of wildly wonderful mood the sun must have been when the first of her kind cracked through the eggshell.

Thanks to Anoop, a talented photographer, for having captured the bird (featured above) in flight during a trip to the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary last year. He has posted some really good photographs on Flicker too.

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