Nostalgic sounds

Nostalgic sounds

Having started birdwatching at the tender age of 12, I carry with me today, at this definitely not tender age of 52, memories of 40 years of birdwatching. Surprisingly, it is not the colours and sounds of exotic species in the thick dense forests which still lingers in me today.

What stirred me inifinitismally and still does- I cannot, for the death of me explain why -- is the call of the ‘brainfever bird,’ a kind of cuckoo, which I had first heard in Dehra Doon, some time before I had started birdwatching.

During all those days that I had spent in the Doon valley, I had never once seen this bird. But its call, which echoed in that sleepy town, still resounds in me. Perhaps the fact that I had not seen this bird then and that I could not have recognised it even if I had, stirs my nostalgia.

This nostalgic stupor does not seem to ever leave me, because even as I write this, I hear the call of the more common cousin of the brainfever bird, the koel. Like the brainfever bird, the koel , also a cuckoo, is in love with its own voice, for it calls at all times of the day and night, waking us up.

In the koel’s case however, the male and the female have different calls, and it seems that it is the male who is more in love with his own voice, (an allusion to the human male is here avoided!) so much in fact, that he calls everytime the female calls, as if he did not want us to hear her. Their calls drown the harsh sounds that Bangalore seems to have been plunged in for the past many years, racing motorcycles, honking cars, loudspeakers, jets thundering overhead--you name it !

Amidst all this cacophony, the koel’s call tells me that nature is still around, if not at large. But not without reminding me of those days when my mother would hang our clothes to dry under the mellow spring sun, while I, with a story book in the hand, would be lulled to sleep by the call of the brainfever bird...

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