Monday, 26 February 2007


Some days ago I was sitting and chatting on our balcony, with my cousin who was visiting us from Cochin.
Suddenly his relaxed demeanour seemed to change, and he looked at me expectantly, as though waiting for me to do something.
I asked him what the matter was, and he said, “Shall I answer the doorbell?”
“I didn’t hear it,” I said, for I hadn’t heard the metallic ring of the bell.
“There it is again,” he said. I did not hear it then either. Was I becoming deaf, I wondered.
“There,” he said, and then it hit me. It was the warbling of birds from our mango trees - he thought the call of the birds was our doorbell! He had mistaken the true notes of the birds for the electronic mimed sounds made by some calling bells
His own doorbell, he explained, is the chirping of the birds.

We are fortunate to live in a place surrounded by trees, a couple of coconut palms, some asoka trees and about six mango trees.
There are so many birds we hear, but not always see. There is the screeching of the parrot, the harsh cawing of the crow, and sometimes the plaintive notes of the kuil/koel. On occasion, we have seen woodpeckers also. And many other shrill and sweet notes which I cant identify, counterbalanced with crisp squeaks of squirrels In this urban area, this is a little haven for the birds, and a little bit of heaven for us.

There is a special spot outside the verandah at the back, the ledge where I scatter rice grains for the crows.
Some days the crows come to peck at the grains, some days the squirrels get there before the crows and polish off the grains.
Lately I have noticed that one crow visits regularly; and if I am late with the rice, I have had it. There is such aggressive and demanding cawing, that I have to rush with the rice to appease it.
There is another crow (or maybe it is the same) that waits while I scatter the rice, but doesn’t start snapping at it. It waits and looks around. Usually I just go back to my chores, but one day I hung back to see what happened. The crow waited, and cawed. Soon a squirrel came rushing down the branch of the mango tree and jumped on to the ledge where the rice was, and started chomping. The crow waited patiently, and after the squirrel withdrew, came for the rest of the rice. I noticed on the following days also, the two ate in perfect amicability.
A strange friendship, which continues to date.

This year the mango trees are fully alive with blossoms. The recalcitrant tree on the east, which fails to bloom some years, seems to be weighed down with the heaviness of the blooms. Perhaps the plentiful rains of the past two years is the reason for this bounty.
And if it is possible for trees to look so – it looks happy! There are more coconuts also this year on our palms.

There is one tree just outside our front yard, on the pavement, which is covered with green leaves all year round. Towards mid January, it starts shedding leaves, and by mid February, we can see the house opposite from our balcony.
Soon the branches will become completely bare, and small tight buds will appear, with the promise of yellow blooms.
One fine day in April, after all the leaves are fallen, the tree bursts forth in yellow glory. Little danglers of yellow blossoms hang from every possible place on the tree, and the whole tree looks lit up. Not a sign of a single green leaf, and the branches remain invisible. For two to three days this splendour lasts, and then slowly the blossoms fall off, the branches become bare and the green leaves start sprouting once again.
This tree, whose name I don’t know, waits all the year round for its one day of magnificence, for its one day in the sun, and then goes back to getting ready for the next year.
A quiet lesson.


Anonymous said...

Urban Oasis. It is a wonder you can hear all these creatures over the traffic din. The mango trees, crows and rice take me back to me schooldays.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Raji! Hi! You are so cool! Sorry to use this slangy lingo which if I remember correctly gets on your nerves. But the reason I say You're so COOL is because you're blogging!

I'll get in touch with you today!

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Wonderful writeup!! Gee, you are a very lucky person to have so many trees and bird-life around your house. I enjoyed reading it.