Time to stand and stare

As a child, I loved standing on the balcony of our flat in Kolkata and watching all the goings on in the street below. There were no dustbins provided by the municipality in those days and so everyone would throw their garbage in a corner of the lane. The garbage collector would arrive at the crack of dawn  every morning and with a spade he would heap up the garbage onto his hand cart. Then he would sweep and clean the corner.

The milkman arrived next with packets of milk in bags strung to his bicycle. Then the bread man would come and deliver bread to the corner shops in front of our apartment which sold everything from bread, butter and cheese to safety pins and ink. The newspaper delivery boy was next and with unerring aim would throw rolled up newspapers into every apartment balcony.

Our neighbour had a neem tree in his compound and birds like crows and bulbuls would nest there. From our first floor balcony, I would get a good view of the happenings in the nests-the chicks calling for food and the parents making umpteen visits with tasty morsels for the little ones.

I would continue to haunt the balcony on holidays and later in the day, fruit and vegetable vendors , steel utensil vendors and umbrella repairers would put up an appearance. In the late afternoon, it would be the turn of snack-sellers selling “chanachurgaram” and “jhlamuri”. The neighbourhood children would now be playing cops and robbers and other games on the street till it became dark.

After moving to the country in Karnataka, I haven’t lost the habit of looking out. We don’t have a balcony now-we live in an independent house-and so I simply look out of the window wherever I am in the house-in the kitchen or at my desk in my room. I have seen some interesting sights from the kitchen window-A bronze-backed tree snake devouring a garden lizard; rat snakes hunting; different butterfliesnectaring on wild flowers… Once a rufous woodpecker, normally arboreal, came to the ground to drink water from a cupped dried leaf in which rainwater had collected. This was just after a welcome shower on a hot day. Another time, a yellow land monitor calmly walked by!

One summer, a female koel chick, recently fledged, would keep demanding food from her foster crow parents. Her pleading calls could be heard throughout the day and I often saw the foster parents feeding her while she perched on the fence outside my bedroom window.

So many things go on all around and it is indeed wonderful to be able to observe all the happenings. The poet was right when he said-“What is this world so full of care that we have no time to stand and stare? “ I am glad to be able to stand and stare whenever I can. It is an activity that I can indulge in while doing other things like cooking, washing dishes or even reading!

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