Pigeons – part I


Sometime in March of last year, I wrote a very long account of our encounters with a certain species called ‘pigeons’. Since it was rather long, I decided to split it up… Hope you enjoy…

A sheet of fibre glass and an awning supported by an iron frame cover the largest open space of our 2nd floor house – the balcony. And like every city balcony, ours also has its fair share of visitors in all shapes and sizes. From lizards and ants to squirrels and pigeons.

Most visitors keep to themselves. But pigeons are rather friendly.

During summers, whenever we water the flowerpots in our balcony, they make it a point to sit around a small puddle of water on the floor. They wet their wings, dip their beaks in the water, rub their necks, shake their heads… It all looks like some funky dance routine.

The birds are a lot like spoilt children. And like children, there are times when they start making noise and throwing tantrums. “You are sitting so comfortably within your concrete den while we are outside in this harsh weather. Have you no concern for us?” Well, at least that’s what we imagine them to be saying. More often than not, we try to pacify them by spreading bread crumbs on the outer railing. Most of the time, they wait for us to step inside, before attacking the crumbs. But there are times when they shed their inhibitions and very boldly take food away even before we finish laying the platter.

We would often see pigeons sitting in a nest in our neighbour’s balcony. And I have always wondered what it would be like to have a nest in our balcony. As children, we’ve seen nature programmes on television. How eggs hatch, how absolutely adorable the chicks are, how the parent feeds the chicks and how the young ones take their first step and tumble around. Seeing that happen, in reality, would be so wonderful.

When we moved into our house, construction workers left behind all sorts of scrap material. And our balcony had become part junk-yard and part garden. We had some problem with space, so blocks of wood and some surfboards were propped up on the frame of the fibre glass. We intended to clear up the mess – little by little. But before that, something else happened.

They say be careful what you wish for – you might just get it!

And that is what happened. Our neighbours moved out, and with them, so did the pigeons. In summer, they were in our balcony. And our blocks of wood and surfboards were enough for them. The birds began building a nest on the little space that they got. Before we knew it, the pigeons not only had a makeshift nest, but also an egg.

Birdwatching became our new pastime and a regular dinner-table conversation. During the day one pigeon would sit on the egg (We assumed it to be the mother) while the other would bring sticks to complete the incomplete nest. Their nest was always a work-in-progress. Some sticks would fall down, and the pigeon would continuously keep working to mend the gap.

They must have been superstitious, for they never picked up the sticks that had fallen down. It was almost as if they thought, “It fell down. It is bad. We need a good stick that will not fall”.

There was a tiny gap between the awning and the sheet of fibre glass. While bringing the sticks, the pigeon would use that tiny gap to enter the balcony. There were open skies just beyond the awning. But it would not use that to enter. The larger open space was used strictly for exiting. It would then return with another stick, held firmly in its beak. Again it would enter using the small gap – not the larger open space. It was as if it had designated the two spaces as in and out. The in gate would not be used for flying out and the out gate would not be used for entering.

This ritual continued for many days and we loved to observe their daily routine. We simply could not wait for the egg to hatch.

But fate had other plans.

That little space was not enough to support the nest. And the egg that she had laid came crashing down.

There was an unbearable stench. The broken egg and its lifeless contents were cleared away and after sometime, the stench had reduced. But our disappointment and heartbreak would take a lot more than cleaning, to get over. It is hard for us to know whether they had the kind of emotions that we had. They expressed their grief by simply flying away.

For many days we felt their absence. They would occasionally visit, but they did not attempt to build another nest. Perhaps memories haunted them…

Rain


‘The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.’ – Chuck Close

If I were a professional writer, I would have said I’ve got the writer’s block. But I’d rather put it down to a lack of inspiration. After all, amateurs need inspiration! Here’s a little piece I wrote some time back, when I was inspired to write. It is the only piece of fiction I have managed to write so far. Hope you enjoy!

2 May 2010, Sunday

I was sitting at my desk, getting frustrated over a problem regarding my work, when my niece stormed into the room.

“How can you be sitting here cramped up in this little space? Look at the weather outside!”

“Oh damn! There goes my concentration! I almost had it figured out!”, I cried out.

“Serves you right! You keep cribbing about everything. Now look at the weather. It is just so amazing, and you are ignoring it! Take a break will you!”, she retorted.

I knew it would be pointless to argue with her. She would beat me hands down. So I sighed and gave in.
“I suppose I could take five minutes off”
“Much better! Now stop being grumpy.”

She grabbed my hand and led me to our verandah.

Our verandah was a place unlike any other. It was the largest room in the house, and it provided a beautiful view of the forest which was a little distance from the residential complex. It was what I called a slice of heaven. It was my escape – from work, from the desk and most importantly, from people.

The verandah was, as always, beautiful. But today, it was even more radiant. I leaned on the railing and looked up. The sky was heavy with low-lying dark clouds. The trees were gently swaying to the rhythm of the wind. The air was full of the intoxicating fragrance of moist earth. I took a deep breath and sank into the chair.

In an instant, I forgot all about my work. I had been transported into another world.
“There are hot pakoras in the kitchen. Available only on first-come, first-served basis! Hurry up, or there won’t be any left.” And my niece disappeared, leaving me with the elements. I was grateful to her for bringing me out, and I was happy, that I did not have to share this space with anyone.

I closed my eyes and felt the cool breeze on my face. It was not long before little drops of water came crashing down, like pet dogs rushing to owners to lick them. As the first drops struck me, a chill ran down my spine. I felt like I was on a dangerous adventure. I was afraid, of what, I do not know. And I was thrilled. Only a few drops of water had released a range of emotions. I sat there, mesmerised, oblivious of my surroundings.

Little drops became larger, and the breeze gained velocity. I took shelter under the roof. But I could still feel the raindrops. I felt like I was meeting old friends in a coffee shop. Longing to meet them, screaming with joy on seeing them, but sad that the moment will not last for long.

I lost track of time. For a long time, I only heard the breeze and felt the rain. Until someone splashed a glass of water on my face.

“What’s wrong with you? Your boss is on the phone. We’ve been calling out for so long. Didn’t you hear?”

The Lamps Are Lit


The dust has finally settled – quite literally. Here are the sights (no sounds, since we’ve gone cracker-free) from this year’s Diwali.

Deepavali (Diwali) is a time when people celebrate. Reasons and ways of celebrating vary.

Lighting the stairs
Lighting the stairs

But the lights are the main features of the festival. In the place where I live, the festivities begin only in the evening, whereas in the place where our ancestors lived, the festivities are over even before the day begins. Its complicated, and I’ll save that for another post.

Decorative Earthen Lamp
Decorative Earthen Lamp

So while the whole society around us celebrates, we have nothing to do. A feeling of loneliness, and isolation, inevitably begins to creep in. Something I term festive blues (okay, there may be others who’ll claim to have termed it thus).

This year, to fight the festive blues, I decided watch our neighbours making a rangoli outside their house.

Traditional Peacock Lamp
A Traditional Brass Peacock Lamp

Again, in the place I live in, rangolis are made only on very special occasions, and are a form of recreation. In the culture we belong to, new rangolis are made daily. So when we see people making a big deal about rangolis, I really can’t understand it.

Small Decorative Clay Lamp
Small Decorative Clay Lamp

Since our rangoli had been made early morning, there wasn’t much to do. So yet again, I picked up the very intimidating camera and captured some sights of this diwali.

* * * * * *

Fighting against darkness
Fighting against darkness

If you intend visiting India during Diwali, it could either be the best, or the worst experience of your life. All the bazaars are flooded with the most beautiful lamps and idols and what not. All houses are decorated with lights – both electric as well as oil lamps/candles. And since The Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, enters only clean houses, all houses are squeaky clean and colourful rangolis are drawn. Of course, all the shops are crowded and everything is expensive. So you have to have great bargaining skills. And if you don’t like crackers or loud noises, well, then nothing can protect you against them!

Pots of flame
Pots of Flame

Cheers!

PS. The photos here are free for anyone wanting to use them for non-commercial purposes. A link would be appreciated 🙂


‘The Lamp Is Lit’ is a book authored by Ruskin Bond.

Lighting up the path
Lighting up the path
Welcoming the Goddess
Welcoming the Goddess