With my back to the future: Asian Paradise Flycatcher

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I have finally spotted the fully white-morphed Asian Paradise Flycatcher. A mere week after the wild cat sighting, the flycatcher flew into the crooked window of my heart for the very first time.

During the Christmas weekend, while in Ponneri, I saw the flycatcher breakfasting on a large moth. It was a breathtaking sight. How beautifully its iridescent crest glistened. The whirling dervishes that were its milk-white tail-feathers. Unable to contain my emotions, I cried. Not in a way that makes passersby smile at how kind and wonderful this deranged blue planet can be. It was sort of awkward. Weird-sounding. There was definitely some reverse-blowdrying of the nose. I had been waiting for the moment since 2013, after all.

On January 2, though, bad news arrived. I was diagnosed with a disc prolapse in my lower back. And it had struck a nerve that is connected to my left leg. There isn’t a cure for the condition. However, with the right treatment, I may be able to return to my routines.


When the pain escalated three weeks ago, I felt very sorry for myself. I thought that the timing was terrible. And I just couldn’t bring myself to accept the repercussions. For the next few months, at least, I will be unable to go bird-watching; at least, not without extreme discomfort. Sitting down to write is no walk in the park either. Unless the park was in Beirut. During wartime. And I wore a neon signboard around my neck that read “I dare you to shoot me”.

Nights are problematic too. At times, I wake up during odd hours, mouthing expletives and grabbing my shin. It is as though a tiny person is stabbing the inside of my left thigh and the lower portion of my spine – with a blunt yet narrow object.

This week, though, I have felt relatively calmer about the situation.

It is because I have since realized that whatever happened to me isn’t an anomaly. Millions are affected by cataclysmic events every single day. Our existence can be measured by simplistic bar graphs. A series of ups and downs, like hilly landscapes; some leave lasting impressions while others are transient by nature.

But it is impossible to foresee future trends based on historical patterns. Even if you take a chance and swear by probabilities, life may not work out the way you expect it to.

I suppose that things could have been worse. I could have been diagnosed with something more damaging. Or perhaps, I could have been one of those annoying people who relied on celebrity quotations such as “Pain nourishes your courage” to feel better about the situation. Or I could have started the car a few seconds earlier / later, and missed out on ever spotting the flycatcher.

But the fact remains I saw it before all this happened. And that will keep me going until I can go birdwatching again. Because like someone once said, it is better to “turn your wounds into wisdom”.

Aww shit.

Well, here’s to hoping that each of you had a better start to the year.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Ponneri

Thank you,
prince of flycatchers,
for the milky-white mission
that, for years, had me
airborne and afloat.

And for every spring
I ever needed

in my step, to skip through
barren plateaus.

(Photographs: Ponneri)

30 thoughts on “With my back to the future: Asian Paradise Flycatcher

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  1. Awww shit, indeed. Thinking of you and hoping you find ways to cope. Our North American flycatchers are no where near as dramatic and photogenic as yours. Magnificent. I’m glad you spotted her and that you let us know what is going on with you. I was wondering.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Speaking of dramatic, one of the things that had me feeling suffocated was that I couldn’t write earlier on this blog and communicate with my readers. It’s probably the most fruitful relationship I’ve ever had, and it felt un-watered.

      Thank you for your kind words, Susanne. Into the good night, we shall soar – with the birds of paradise et all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear of your diagnosis, being intimately familiar with your condition may I offer a bit of advice. Learn to traverse stairs very gently, avoid jumping or any motion that causes vertical jarring of the spine, do not carry heavy loads while walking, and learn to lift with your legs not your back. Wear wool or cushioned socks and shock absorbing/soft soled shoes and retrain yourself to sleep on your side with your legs together, not in a semi-symmetrical half-twisted position. (A pillow between your legs may also be helpful) It will take time, but with a few modifications to your routine you should be able to adapt. Best wishes my friend, and welcome to the world of the unexpected.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gosh, I am so grateful that you recommended a sleeping posture. I have been having trouble with it for the past few days. The shock-absorbing material is a sound idea too. I shall follow thy orders.

      Thank you so much D&C ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That flycatcher is an amazing looking bird. Lovely photos of it. So sorry about your back and leg… hope it gets better soon so that you can return to your feathery-loves.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Back in 1966, when I was 11, I complained about something to my wise old grandmother, to which she replied, “Oh, boo hoo. There are many people in the world worse off than you.” That was a common expression from her during the 7 years I lived with her. I never forgot that, though, and whenever something is ailing me, either physically or mentally, I always remember what she said and I go off in search of that someone who is worse off than me to see if I can help them. In my senior years now, I usually just donate some money to some organization–SPCA, Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Russel. I may be unsure if my level of altruism will change. But it makes me feel good that there are those who think you like do. I don’t mean to sound like I am exaggerating but it’s honestly why the world hasn’t gone complete ape-shit.

      Your grandmother was wise indeed, my friend. Thank you again for your kind and wise words too.


      1. To quote the cop in Aboorva Sagothargal, “saar, noooo silly feelings”.

        Because like Bill Hicks once quipped – “It’s always funny until someone gets hurt, then it’s just hilarious”.


        Liked by 1 person

  5. Four years ago, I lost my sight. Before that time, like you, I reveled in Nature wanderings, feasting my eyes on the infinite wonders of that world. For months after blindness, I was in a dark depression, my life now devoid of the pleasures that Nature had afforded me. One day, through the marvels of a computer that talks to me, I discovered you and your blog and was again connected to visions I so dearly missed. yes, being blind sucks but it has pushed me to reach out and discover new ways to share life with other good human beings. I treasure listening to your magical word journeys.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gosh, Tio, thank you immensely for your courage and kindness. I have told you before, your comments, two years ago, were what inspired me to sustain this blog on a regular basis. I feel honored that you are able to reconnect to nature through birds. It’s the stuff that makes writing and birdwatching so pleasurable. Thank you again.

      I have a stronger reason now to get better soon. I want to do my little part in keeping you close to nature.


  6. Hope you’re right as rain and free of pain soon, my friend. Your inspiration still reaches across the oceans, through the long stretch of time in between — wrote a poem. Will be back soon. ‘hugs’

    Liked by 1 person

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