It is inevitable to lose the people we love; family members, friends, pets or colleagues. Experiencing the loss is a pivotal part of the learning process to lead a happy and productive life. On a long enough timeline – everyone departs. Every relationship comes with an expiry date. People leave. We get upset. Then, we move on. Only when we feel that the relationship has not reached its logical conclusion are we overwhelmed by its finality.
So, we try hard to recall how they left us. We remember the sights of the departure; more importantly, the sounds.
Goodbyes can be wordless compositions. Even if things get better, and we learn to live without them – the sound of their departure can haunt us forever.
It could be the muffled announcements at the airport. The chugging melody of train wheels as they turn on rusty tracks. The hoarse cries of a hawker at the bus stop. The screeching of car tires, as they kick up dust and smoke. A front door slammed shut. The shrill notification tone of a private message. The gnashing of metal clamps against a fiberglass coffin. Or the hooting of Spotted Owlets.
These beautiful birds were absent in my life during the first half of 2017. Bed-ridden in the hospital, I would listen to the bird calls stored on my phone. I would skip past the Spotted Owlets because of how much I had missed them. Distance does not make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes, it severs the heart muscles and bleeds out the owner.
I succumbed and pressed play on a few occasions. It was like listening to a voice message from someone I had loved before getting dejected about being unable to respond. Each time they haunted me, I ached to fist-fight my way out of the hospital.
On better days, I considered taking a hostage. They would have had to pay me in discharge letters as ransom.
As my health continued to visibly improve, I found some peace. Rather, I let go of the anger and helplessness that had been festering inside me. There seemed fewer roadblocks on the path to recovery. I felt rejuvenated after I had realized that these sounds had no power on their own. No agendas. No preconceived notions. I had control over them.
It was always my decision on how they ought to make me feel.
Towards the end of summer, the doctor had cleared me to drive for short distances. I could barely contain my excitement. I knew I was going to see them soon. When I finally spotted them at the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, I was teleported to an unplugged concert. Teary-eyed, I thanked the band members for showing up before the audience did.
From then on, I have managed to spot more Spotted Owlets than before. A single trip to the sanctuary, these days, yields as many as 8-12 magnificent specimens. Fearing that I may annoy them into changing locations, I ambush them with my love. I hide behind concrete benches and thick trees, and I stalk them with good intentions.
When that familiar hooting pierces through the air, my ears prick up. Their music explores me. And I find myself by inheriting the sound of their departure.
Poem: Thot Purge