Needless to say, the past couple of months have been right out of a science fiction movie. As schools shut down in Hong Kong (where I reside), like many others we decided to fly out to our native countries because of the COVID_19 threat. Usually, my trips back home are for around 2 weeks and always incredibly rushed. The to-do list is long and the days fly by very quickly, leaving me exhausted and slightly disappointed at not having accomplished everything I set out to do and meet everyone I wanted to meet. But this time I was going to be home for the second time in two months and that too without an agenda.
After the first couple of days that were a bit unsettling I must admit, it started to feel like I had been awarded bonus time. I had the freedom to do what I wanted to, or not do anything at all with the absolutely stunning Delhi weather proving to be the proverbial cherry on the cake. The combination of having the luxury of time, the stunning weather, and not having an agenda was all very new for me. Or rather, something I hadn’t experienced in a very long time despite coming home twice a year for the last 16 years. In fact, I couldn’t remember having the opportunity to just ‘be’ or spend quality time at home with my parents on any of my previous trips. So, I chose to spend most of my time on the terrace with my folks, soaking in the sun, while attempting to also work on my laptop.
The bird watching happened quite accidentally and feeding my feathered friends became one of my favourite things to do. Given that my trips were usually in the peak of winter or summer, neither the birds nor I had spent much time together on the terrace before. At first, it felt like I was encroaching on their territory. The birds, feeling very much at home, would come to the terrace every morning around 9 am and in the evening around 4:30 pm for what my father refers to as a “feast” of corn and bajra (millet). In fact, the peacocks come right up to the bedroom attached to the terrace lest my parents get late in bringing the feed out, knocking on the doors with their beaks.
The peacocks, peahens, crows, doves, pigeons, sparrows, jungle babblers (and boy! do they babble), parrots, and a few others, along with some squirrels became the topic of curiosity for me and my camera. While I love taking pictures of people, most of these photoshoots are quite rushed. And I photograph jewellery for work, again something I enjoy but it gets taxing. Taking pictures of my feathered friends was a first for me and it really taught me about time and patience, and the art of staying still as the slightest sound or move would scare them away.
Each day I would see the pigeons start to collect around 4 pm, sitting either on the roof or across from our home on an electrical wire. The peacocks and peahens would appear in the vacant property beside us, waiting for their time (usually half an hour after the pigeons have eaten). The crow would come and survey the place for food and call out to the birds, not eating any grains itself. Then a couple of pigeons would fly in, followed in seconds by a whole lot. The other birds would join in but would keep their distance from the pigeons. The squirrels were adorable and surprisingly very comfortable around me.
There isn’t much to this story except that some experiences happen simply because they can only happen at a certain time, under certain circumstances. I made new friends on my unplanned trip because I was there on my terrace with time and opportunity (and of course my camera). The one peacock that always came late, the lame pigeon, the two-spotted black and white pigeons (who often got bullied as well), the peahens who chose to ignore the dancing peacocks (not the most successful of courtships), and the jungle babblers or as I call them, the “angry birds”; I experienced them only because of an unexpected trip due to unforeseen circumstances. When the birds came home this February, I feel in many ways so did I.
The things that I have learnt :
- Corn is the preferred treat more than bajra.
- There is a fat pigeon who is quite the bully.
- There is a certain corner on my roof where pigeon couples love to…well you know!
- The sparrow population in Delhi is quite depleted now because of radiation from cell phone towers.
- Peahens love to tease.
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Image Credit : Shikha S. Lamba
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