The crack of the dawn fills my head with colors. It does weird stuff to my lungs. Leaves my insides all shook up. But I don’t feel like puking. It’s like the sky is undergoing a cesarean section to the tempo of Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2. And I am watching the rebirth of the sun.
Waking up early has become a habit these days. A few years ago, it was a hard bargain. Because I used to have a soft corner for the nights. There was nothing poetic about it. The city just seemed so much quieter. And it made all the difference.
Everything changed one fine December morning when I went for a walk in Vattakanal. I saw a bird land, as though it fell from a great height, on a tree branch. So orange was its breast that one could be forgiven for thinking it had swallowed a piece of the sun on the way down.
I had seen a Small Minivet. It was the first time I had spotted this bird. And I learned two valuable lessons that day. One – that those minivets were smaller than I had imagined. The other was that the morning hours were when the birds came out to play.
Vattakanal, a quaint part of Kodaikanal Hills, hosts some of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen. It is also home to a variety of bird species. Whenever I visit, I make it a point to reach some birding spot or the other, by 5:30 AM. Preferably, when it’s still dark. I get annoyed if the light touches the ground before my feet do.
These morning walks yield a lot of love. Especially, at the fruit farms. During summer, near the waterfalls too. Birds such as Oriental White-Eyes, White-Cheeked Barbets, Nilgiri Laughing Thrushes and Common Hoopoes have become regular companions of mine.
The last time I went there, I saw another bird that looked like it had feasted on a celestial being. It was the Orange Minivet. Instead of a giant flaming ball, the songbird rose, breast first, and spilled its colors inside me.
And I set my heart to the pace of the sun.
on the sun’s
as it blushed,
in orange ink,
like a peach in heat,
on a bird’s plumage.
(Photographs – Vattakanal)