The Common Hoopoe is supposed to be a commonly-found resident in my city of Chennai. But I haven’t spotted a single one in my neighbourhood. I have seen them many times on the outskirts. Every time, they hijack my gaze. Detoxify the air in my lungs. Then, leave me breathless.
I can’t imagine getting any work done if I knew that they were lurking outside my house. I will end up getting fired for absenteeism. Evicted by the landlord for not paying rent. Alienated by friends after ignoring their phone calls. Relatives will frown at me for abandoning a functional life in order to stare at hoopoes. My parents will think I am mad.
Things will be said. Calls will be made. And soon, nice people in white uniforms will take me away to a happier, quieter and more padded place.
The first time I saw this gorgeous bird, it looked like a butterfly caught in a gentle sandstorm. It wore a fawn-coloured Vaudevillian crest and black-and-white cabbage patch plumage that gleamed proudly in the sun. Its beak was the stuff that picture storybooks should be known for.
It was as if I had caught Mother Nature in a benevolent mood. I wanted a tree branch to lean over and whisper to me, giggling, “You are welcome”.
Despite having spotted the hoopoe enough times to make us seasonal lovers, it still looks breath-taking. Often I see them, sunbathing with gusto, in the East Coast highway. I stand there and ogle at their gorgeousness until it becomes uncomfortable for one of us.
I am hypnotized by everything they are, and all the things I can never be.
I stare at them until they fly away.
How can even I concentrate on anything else if I find hoopoes outside my window?
I will be unshaven for months. The kitchen will smell like it hosted a rave party of skunks. Children will hear rumours about me. They will pelt small objects at me as they pass by the “crazy bird man”. In response – I will snarl and wave my field guidebook – Birds of the Indian Subcontinent – at them.
I will complain about how the hoopoes don’t visit often enough, without realizing that nobody is listening anymore. Also, that Michael – my best friend – is, in fact, a broken alarm clock.
Perhaps, it worked out well for everyone that they don’t haunt the neighbourhood I live in. I still haven’t figured out how to put the love I have on a leash.
Please wait until I visit you, my precious hoopoe. Or else your beauty will be the wreck of me.
A sweet promise
sung over a melody
over and over again.
Birds are butterflies
are untied shoelaces.