Birds in thy neighbourhood

Birds in thy neighbourhood


Birds in thy neighbourhood
The sharp tick-tick sound made on my door could have been the work of a woodpecker. In a way, yes. It was my bird-watcher friend, announcing his arrival. I had made his acquaintance while flying. Not as birds in a migratory flight in a ‘V’ formation but as passengers in a domestic flight.

I opened the door, beamed and congratulated him. Recently, he had published his fifth tome on crows, ravens and rooks, yet another feather in his cap. He had come to the city for the book launch. “You can drop in at that time for lunch, killing two birds with one stone.” I wrote to him, but deleted the last portion that sounded jarring and rude.

I led him to the drawing room. He hopped on to a chair, his lean frame rendering such feat possible and graceful. His eyeballs darted to right and left pendulously. His thorax heaved. I wondered if he would flap his hands and take off, making a whirring noise. Instead, he shot a look through the balcony. His hands produced a pair of binoculars which he fixed to his beady eyes.

“That’d be Neeti doing her morning gymnastics,” I pointed out, spotting a bird of the hour-glass-shaped variety in our concrete jungle. He whirled round with a jerk and looked in a different direction, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. “Ah, that is Omana Kutty, a Mallu, drying her long tresses after a Friday oil bath.”

The bird-watcher smirked, crinkling the crow’s feet around his piercing eyes. “If you want to spot a nest, look over there — that flat with bead curtains.” I lowered my voice to a hoarse whisper, “that is a love nest.”

The city man’s adopted ornithology seemed to amuse him to no end. “What variety that poor soul would have. With sparrows out, only crows and the cooing pigeons?” I asked. His eyes twinkled.

“With your acute water problem, can you afford a wash everyday?” He asked. “Of course, yes.” I told him, pointing at the birdbath in the balcony, a family heirloom. He wrinkled his nose with mock revulsion. And stepped a foot backwards.

The two plates laid on the table would have seemed to metamorphose him into the crane which was invited by the fox for lunch. “Where are the kids?” he asked, turning his neck at incredible acute and obtuse angles, Siberian crane-like.

“Their cousins have come. The boisterous gang is over there. Can’t you hear the noise?”
He inclined his head, lending his ears. The harmonious chitter, chatter, twitter and jabber that permeated through the woodwork might have reminded him of a well-populated bird sanctuary during the peak  season.

“But are they not going to join us for lunch?” he asked.

“No way. They’ll not leave us in peace.” His face fell. “Nonsense,” he snapped. “Call all of them. And everyone else in the house. I always share and eat with a group. Which is the first lesson I learnt from the commonest bird.”

He stood up. With one eye on the laid-out food, he cupped both his hands around his mouth and shouted lustily. “Come on, kids. Come on…lunch is ready.” Somehow, it sounded to me like ‘caw-caw-caw-caw’. Musical yet not raucous or strident to my ears.

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