Utopia is where
odd fellows rest,
with blank stares
and babysit blue orchids,
bearing stars for seeds,
that come in pairs.
I have lost interest in keeping count of the number of birds I have spotted. I let it go around the 300-mark. But I still obsess over spotting new birds during every trail. If I don’t, it’s not as though my heart loses purpose. It just sports a stubble and drunkenly fumbles.
I realized how much it meant to me during a trail on the road to Addukam three months ago. Adukkam is a tiny village along a very bumpy and bird-friendly route from Kodaikanal to Theni. I have had plenty of luck there before.
The first morning had me spotting the usual suspects – Spotted Doves, Drongos, Hill Mynahs, Pied Bushchats, White-Cheeked Barbets, Orange Minivets and Chestnut Headed Bee-Eaters. A Crested Serpent Eagle showed up in the afternoon. I had started birding later than usual that morning. I made my peace with it.
The next day wasn’t any better due to a sudden downpour in the morning. Besides a familiar flock of Vernal Hanging Parrots, a pair of Black-Lored Tits and a darling of a Jerdon’s Leafbird, I couldn’t spot any other bird.
The final day had me feeling nervous. I was restless that I hadn’t made a new feathered friend yet during the trip. The early morning hours quickly passed by. A Hoopoe was nice enough to say hello. But still no luck. By afternoon, I was chewing on my fingernails.
The weather was still a cool shade of yellow, so I sat down to stare the water-coloured terrain. I told myself to quit having these vague expectations in birding; that the experience is more important than the ecstasy of seeing a new plumage, hearing a new call or watching a new kind of love unfold.
I felt a little better. And I continued along the trail. During the early evening hours, these amazing birds I had never seen before just started showing up.
I saw a Streak-Breasted Woodpecker battering the bark of a tree. A Bar-Winged Flycatcher Shrike that looked like a dart with an attitude. A gorgeous Painted Bush Quail couple crossing the road, looking like circus bunnies set free for the first time. A Blue-Throated Blue Flycatcher (I think). And the highlight – a Asian Fairy-Bluebird couple. The male, with his brushstrokes for blue on his plumage, singing to the wild and the female, with a metallic teal skirt, carrying parts of her home in her beak.
One could think there were life’s lessons during this trip. That somehow it all adds up into an inspiring equation about how I should never give up on my dreams. That no matter how ambitious they might be, I should keep trying. But I didn’t do anything different during the final hours of the trip.
Maybe the lesson is about breaking down my dreams into little puzzle pieces. Then maybe these pieces will find me as long as I stay focused on the bigger picture, and things will just work out.
Come to think of it, there is just one lesson for me. Maybe for you too. Our brains are wired in such a way that familiarity, even in its least venomous form, breeds indifference. Commit to change every now and then. Surprise yourself, or else you just might lose sight of who you are.