Never ask a swamphen why it crossed the river

I didn’t exercise my right to vote this year during the State elections. Because I don’t pee in public anymore. See, I am already doing my bit to improve the community. Next year, I hope to stop wasting water while shaving over the washbasin.

Today, I am just flexing my right to complain about the sweltering summer. It’s getting hotter in Chennai. The weather is like an alarm clock going off at full volume. Except it doesn’t have a snooze button. Hell, there are no buttons. The tune sucks too. It’s really hot. To make matters worse, we keep talking about it.

If it wasn’t for Grey-Headed Swamphens, I might have found posthumous fame as the first recorded case of spontaneous combustion. Or jail time for brandishing a homemade napalm gun.

I am easily angered between the months of April and September. It’s when birding activities take a backseat to everything else going on in my life. During this period, I am not thrilled about interacting with people from my city. I fear that one of us will bring up how bad the weather is. It will be all downhill from there on.

And if the world is crueler than I think it is, they will talk to me about global warming. I can’t deal with their super-villain complexes. Not when it’s this hot.

Thank goodness for Grey-Headed Swamphens. If it isn’t for their bright and sexy plumage and their clay-animated feet, the season may end up breaking me.

But when I see them elegantly wade through shallow waters, I don’t care about the temperature anymore. I hear them call out, in distinguished tones, to one another at the break of dawn. They sound like some star-crossed lovers towards the end of a quarrel, and the beginning of a slow and elaborate dance.

And summer just melts away. The heat. The humidity. Gone for somewhere between 10 to 60 seconds.

Maybe it’s a momentary lapse in my reasoning powers. Perhaps, my soul’s song request to the jukebox of the universe or something odd and pretentious like that. Whatever be the case, it calms me down.

I still start sweating the moment I turn off the air-conditioner when I am back home. But it doesn’t bother me as much. I just watched Grey-Headed Swamphens act with the sort of dignity that has been inconspicuous by its absence in my own behavior.

Ahhh summer, let’s just have a nice day, okay?

I am a worker ant,
bearing your sweat glands,
acquiescing in your scent,
awake and dreaming –
under the summer’s
magnifying lens.

Grey-Headed Swamphen

(Photographs: Pallikaranai)

21 thoughts on “Never ask a swamphen why it crossed the river

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  1. Nice way to come back, Christy. I promise I won’t talk about the weather, but swamphens! I may never shut up. We are enjoying sugared iced treats at the moment, enjoying an unusually cool but normally sweltering end of spring. Can’t get enough. Maybe the hemispheres have switched roles and India is visiting Texas for a spell.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pallikaranai? I always associate such nature photographs to a distant land where there’s hardly any human inhabitation. It says how I’ve managed to ignore my immediate surroundings. The header Image feels like a painting. Beautiful Swamphens!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nandhini!

      When you find the time, do visit the Pallikaranai marsh during mornings (6 am to 9 am). Many haunt the edges of the reservoir lake along the Sholinganallur bypass road, along with Painted Storks, Spoonbills, Grey Herons, Spot-Billed Pelicans and a lot more. Do check them out (smile).


  3. Hope it cools down soon for you and the wonderful swamphens. We see Purple Swamphens in Portugal, and they are such fun to watch. Another name for them is Sultana Bird which I think is a great name, I wonder if the Grey Headed ones have an alternative name too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Becky. A cool, happy swamphen-y season to you too.

      “Sultana bird” certainly is a great name, I can so picture them lounging on silken beds (I presume it’s something sultans did). Also, the Dire Straits reference is inviting hehe

      These beauties used to be classified as “Purple Swamphens” but they were recently renamed as “Grey-Headed”!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! As much as i love the lakes in Bangalore, i haven’t seen these purplies and i take comfort in the fact that you spotted them only a few years back. Thanks for sharing and have a birdful week ahead. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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