Look who’s talking: Purple Sunbirds

Conversations with children below the age of five and animals can be more heuristic than those with adults. Sometimes, halfway through a grownup discussion, I lose track of the plot. I slip and fall on the regurgitated mess of inorganically-acquired information. If the other person looks close enough, the sheepish bewilderment is evident on my face. I used to think it was because I was smarter than most of the people I had met. Then, I grew up. And it became clear that I was as dumb and distracted as the rest. Possibly I have been more deluded for having believed, for so long, that I was different from anyone else.

I love talking to children and animals because there are no clear agendas. They are jazz compositions. Free-flowing and nimble discussions. With neither the conformance of structure nor the pressure of outcomes. Also, if I get bored – I can walk away without feeling like a mean bastard. But, I don’t ever see that happening. At least, not when I am talking to birds.

Purple Sunbird, Chennai

In December, there dawned a Purple Sunbird in a quiet corner of my city. Of all the car windows in the world, one flew outside my own. I saw it drawing nectar from flowers, a few feet away from where I was. With the sun butterfly-kissing the ground below, its plumage glimmered – like handpicked soil minerals.

Its nearness had me second-guessing the stench of fear on my human skin. It could also be that I hadn’t used deodorant before I went out.

For a few minutes, the sunbird remained in close quarters. But, it wasn’t searching for nectar by then. Perched on a stem and imperfectly-still, it seemed to be looking at me. So, I started talking to it. I spoke about the kind of year that 2016 had turned out to be. Things that I wouldn’t share with members of my own species in fear of being exposed to sentimentality or stupidity.

Then the Purple Sunbird flew away, I felt glum. I wish it had stayed on. Such interactions with birds remind me of the great talks that I used to have with my pet dog when I was much younger. I could sit down, with my arm around it, and talk about my feelings.

Because you know, feelings…nothing more than feelings.


Okay so, you get the picture.

You should try it out too, the next time you want to confide in someone. Instead of taking a friend to some cafe, try communicating to an animal in close range. Two things are guaranteed. One is that they won’t interrupt you by referencing their personal anecdotes in a condescending manner. The other is that there is no confusion about who has to pay for the coffee.

And nobody walks away with a sinking sensation that they have wasted their precious time over someone else’s feelings.


Purple Sunbird, Chennai

She wears purple
only when all else fails,
she gives up her stilts
for a brand new pair 
of rollerskates.

Even the sun
has barely tickled
the cream of her surface.
The least we can do
is know her by name.

(Photographs: Chennai)

11 thoughts on “Look who’s talking: Purple Sunbirds

Add yours

  1. Great writing Christy. Emojis and memes have made us lazy to express our feelings in our own words. As we borrow and tag more and more, we are deluded into thinking we are as expressive/funny as what we borrow. <like commenting on your blog makes me think I wrote the piece because you’ve written what I wanted to say infinitely better than I ever can > #imaginedidentities

    Liked by 1 person

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