While in Thekkady earlier this year, I had spotted a stubby bird I had never seen before. I was taking an evening stroll behind the cottage. And there she was, like a doodle crayoned by a prodigiously-gifted child, about 100 meters away from me.
She looked incredibly familiar. But I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I took a few photographs of her, as the sun went down, and returned to the cottage. I pulled out my copy of “Birds of the Indian Subcontinent” by Richard Grimmett, Carol Inskipp and Tim Inskipp to find out her name.
This book is more than just a field guide. We share a “honey, I’m home” kind of relationship. I have spent many endless nights with the book on my couch. While traveling I go through it only after I am done with my quota of birding for the day.
It turned out that I have been so enamored with the contents of the book that I have never bothered to notice the bird on its front cover page – The Indian Pitta.
She looks like a crayon box with stubby legs and a short bill. The upper region of her body is bathed in parrot-green, and the lower parts – doused in the hues of orange. Her tail feathers are smudged in bright red and blue. And her black coronal stripes give her an air of mischievousness, like a cat-burglar in search of insects.
I haven’t spotted the Indian Pitta since. But I am pretty sure that I will remember her name the next time I see her.
I’ve touched autumn
only inside yellowing pages
of hardbound books,
and on the cheeks
of a girl as we bookmarked
each other’s morning breaths
by a babbling brook.