Sometimes, I literally can’t see the forest for the trees. Only when I sit down to rest do I realize how tall they are. I start noticing how the branches bristle with life, death, food and music. I scratch my forehead and wonder why it took me so long to experience their grandeur.
The first time I spotted a Swamphen up-close, I saw an ugly side of me. It was a moment of realization. A fresh perspective. And I felt terrible about it.
Like someone once said – “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”.
I saw Grey-Headed Swamphens from afar during my first year in birding. They were always surrounded by larger and more colorful waterbirds. I was oblivious to their beauty. Because they weren’t as photogenic.
They lost interest in me too. They showed up, rarely, at safe distances. We remained strangers for almost two years.
My brain can be fickle. It isn’t enough for me that beauty exists. I have to take photographs of it. Try to bottle it up. Put them in little boxes. Arrange them in alphabetic order. So whenever a Grey-Headed Swamphen appeared, I just ignored it. Because I wasn’t able to label it in some superficial category. Simply put, it wasn’t pretty enough.
The last time I had been that wrong, I fell off a motorbike – after having mistaken a kidney stone symptom for a gastric problem.
I felt like an imbecile when I spotted Swamphens in close quarters. They had paint-brushed patches of the darkest colors of the rainbow all over their plumages. With long and slender talons, they fox-trotted along shallow lakes.
And of it had known how obtuse I was as its beholder, it would have drop-kicked me in the face.
invest in real estate
along her cleavage or
ask for her love
on a temporary lease,
but you will find a home
in her plumage, if you
can house your heart
in-between her beak.
(Photographs: Sholinganallur, Kelambakam)