Like many children of the 80s, I used to be an obsessive gamer. My dad brought home an Atari 2600 home console sometime in 1988. It came with two 8-bit games – ice hockey and tanks. At once, I understood that it was going to be a spectacular end to the decade. And he knew it would be a stressful, annoying and expensive one.
I was introduced to 16-bit games during the early Nineties. It led to a large chunk of my life being devoted to the Mario Brothers franchise. It gave my life a sense of purpose. Not that I was interested in the changing dynamics of gaming technology. I only wanted to save the princess.
Velvet-Fronted Nuthatches remind me of those golden years. With their large heads and striking eyes, they resemble the possessed mushrooms that lurk in Mario’s world . But I don’t want to curb stomp them. I want to spend time with them. And I am willing to fist-fight Bowser for it.
I enjoy watching Velvet-Fronted Nuthatches in action during the wee morning hours. They rigorously sunbathe as though warned about an eclipse. And they dart up and down branches of trees, seemingly jet-propelled, in search of grubs and peace of mind.
Given how difficult it is to photograph them, the experience can be rewarding. It is similar to reaching a secret level in Super Mario Brothers. Even if I can’t collect many points, I still feel wonderful that I came across an unexpected opportunity to do so.
For me, the late 90s was when the magic of gaming faded away. I was buying cartridges that held over 1,000 games. No longer was I emotionally investing in the stories. I was merely collecting points to cultivate a sense of self-worth.
In 2005, I completed the final stage in God of War on the Playstation 2 console. I had to use cheat codes to get past the last few levels. As the end credits rolled, I just knew that it was over.
And I haven’t been into gaming since then.
I can only hope that a day won’t come when I spot a Velvet-Fronted Nuthatch and think to myself, “Yeah, I’m done”.
What a silly day that must be. What a stupid man I will have to be.
(Photographs – Kodaikanal, Thekkady, Chennai, Megamalai, Munnar)