Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bangalore Diaries - Walk the talk

I have been going on long walks for the last few days. My health fluctuates and on the days I can walk, I walk. I sing to myself as I walk. I talk to myself as I walk. I often smile to myself as I walk. And sometimes I observe life around me as I walk. Today I went for a walk at the Sankey lake. Yesterday it was around my local park . And the day before, I went for a long walk in the evening combining some grocery shopping as well.

The trees smile at me as I walk past . They are blushing with flowers of various colours. I learnt a few names recently. Besides the copper pod , the gulmohar and the flowers of the rain tree, I saw various shades of pink and purple in the Java Cassia, in the Pride of India or in the Jacaranda. The tabebuia was in bloom a few months ago, but then the flowers were soon shed and the tree is barren again, waiting for the next flowering season. The law of nature is very simple. They move on from one season to another, from one cycle to the other. Transience is their way of life.

I saw the black kite with nesting material in its mouth. The cormorants were sunning themselves on the top of the trees. A bright blue kingfisher attempted to dive inside the waters of the lake, but realized it was a false alarm. It tried again after a while and returned with a fish. A little later, a green barbet was right atop my head, furiously knocking at a branch of a tree, oblivious to life around it. It had its priorities right. Work. survival .It just carried on from one branch to another, trying to fulfill its needs. Self reliant, independent, knowing what it needs and a focussed search for it, without getting distracted by people, their voices, their opinions and their judgements around - the bird helped me get my priorities right too this morning .More work. Silently. And less noise.

Reminds me of a little poem my dad told me when I was a kid

A wise old owl sat on a tree,
The more he sat, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why arent we like the wise old bird ?

Coming back to the walk, there were more observations - of people, of activities. Some disturbing, some amusing, some touching..but that is for another post..have a great day !

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bangalore Diaries - The winged drama from the balcony

My life in Bangalore revolves around my balcony. It seems to be the only place I can relate to in the city. Of late, I prefer to shut myself up in this ivory tower and observe life as it happens here. The need to socialise, to indulge in polite conversation has gone and I am perfectly happy to be a recluse, connecting only with those that matter. In a larger context, the balcony has become my metaphor for Bangalore and I am happy and contend with it. I have no interest or willingness to explore a facet of the city beyond this boundary except maybe the park and the lake sometimes .

Today however the balcony is very silent. The oppressive heat has driven the birds away, including a pair of oriental white eyes who have been tirelessly building a nest for the last few days. These little green birds with a white ring around the eye came chirping in rather loudly sometime last week. I was watching them, pretty excited as they kept calling repeatedly to each other; communicating in their birdie tongue. And then I saw one of them with a nesting material in its pretty beak. Soon a bush started shaking rather violently as the birds started working very hard, building a little hammock like nest between the forked branches.  I watched them from afar but even a slight movement would send them flying them away and so, I decided to leave them alone. They were a regular for the last few days, but today, they haven't come in. Maybe, one of the birds did not like their new home or their owners or that they just wanted a break from the hard work. I hope they havent abandoned their new home. Perhaps, its the pigeons that made them feel unwelcome or maybe the black kite that keeps hovering here all the time.
A  little further away on the neighbour's terrace is the bathing beauty dipping its head in a little puddle of water all the time. A few days ago, the black kite was sitting on the parapet holding a prey in his claws. The crows flanked him accosting them, cawing continuously as the kite tried to maintain its balance . It called too, a more piteous cry and in scooped a hero, another black kite to the rescue. Our birdie flew away simultaneously to a quiet corner to enjoy his breakfast, while the hero shooed the crows away and waited for a while on his perch. In a few seconds the drama was over and the black kite flew away in the opposite direction . There was no quid pro quo between the two black kites - no deal or thanks ; probably not even a question of sharing the breakfast. They just flew in different directions. Perhaps they will catch up later in the evening for a quick chat or would just fly their separate ways..Yet they were around when one of their species needed them..

This set me thinking. As humans we are very rarely there for another, be it family or friends, as we have our own lives to think of. And when we are there, we often expect something in return - a sense of obligation, a gratitude or even barter .. Is that what separates us from the birds ? And we call ourselves more evolved as a species..just wondering..

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bangalore Diaries - Of caterpillars and butterflies

I wake up to a dark room. The curtains are drawn and the room is so dark that I can barely see my phone next to me. I open one eye warily and look at the time. The power nap has become a snooze. And in that one hour - a lot of changes have happened in my universe. The sky has changed colours and the yoga teacher has cancelled her class.  But the stillness in the air has given way to the bustle of the breeze.  I open my balcony door to let the weather inside the room.  Maybe the Rain Gods had heard me.

The birds are confused. The black kite sits on the sloping curve of the coconut tree's branch and observes the scene . A mynah is walking on the parapet wall of the neighbour's terrace. The pigeons are as usual expressionless. And the red whiskered bulbul has not come today.

But the bamboo is very happy. He is chatting with the breeze, rustling with the palm that does a slow dance when compared to the lively bamboo. I look at the leaves of the palm. A friend had pointed out to me earlier that there could have been a caterpillar feeding on them. The leaves have been chopped or rather cut symmetrically in half but the mysterious caterpillar that has been feeding on them is missing. I look around my little garden but there is a pact among the plants - they won't tell me anything.

 Months ago, I had noticed a caterpillar - somewhat like layers of white thread knitted together feeding on the same plant. I learnt from my Guru, a naturalist that its that of the giant red eye butterfly. I was hoping that I would see it grow into a beautiful butterfly. I watched it everyday but one day it vanished. Maybe it became a pupa and a butterfly and disappeared into the vast universe of birds and butterflies while I was busy doing mundane chores in life. Its one of the many mysteries of life that I will never know . Yet I think everyday about the fate of that one little caterpillar which got fat under my eyes and then just vanished into thin air.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bangalore Diaries - Maid in Bengaluru

The swallows are returning home. They are in such a large flock that you cannot miss them. The sky is a beautiful orange today. And I love that crimson glow reflecting on my doors and windows, walls and glasses and the streaks that fill my flooring. For a moment, the house is filled with such loving warmth and vibrant colours. In a moment, it will all be gone . Reminds me of some friendships that I had made in this city.  I love the twilight hour - there is something so melancholic and yet so beautiful about it.

I have been on a writing spree. My day begins and ends with deadlines. I can hear the weird noises from upstairs. The maid is trying to be too friendly. My mother has just given her a saree for Ugadi but she says its not from me. Suddenly she asks me if Madras and Chennai are the same. I tell her yes. Then she asks me if Karnataka and Bangalore are the same. I try explaining the difference. She does not understand. I draw concentric circles to explain concepts of continents, countries, states and cities. She pretends to understand. Says her son is annoyed with her ignorance. I don't have a globe - so I show her the atlas. She says she has heard of America and it is very far away. I show her America on the map. She wonders if that is how the world looks . I explain its a circle. She gives me a blank look. She sees America again on the map.  Almost every household that she works for has someone living or studying there . But she has not heard of India. I ask her which country we live in. She says Bharath. And then suddenly she gets up and prepares to go to the next house . It is her fourth from morning . She drinks some tea and eats a dosa, collects the money for the milk that she bought me and moves on. That is her world - not the one on globes and atlases.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bangalore Diaries - Birding from the balcony

It's been a quiet morning. The usual high pitched red whiskered bulbul has not come visiting me today. I can hear him distantly but not from my balcony. Sipping my morning cup of tea, I see the black kite enjoying his bath on my neighbour's terrace. His entire head is dipped into the water, while he does a little jig showing his big behind, ruffled up with feathers that stand a little pointedly. The water tank on my neighbour's terrace had overflowed a bit, forming a bit of a puddle and it becomes the bath tub for these birds. Another black kite suns himself on the branches of the coconut tree. I sip my tea and watch these birds in amusement. The crows are waiting for the black kite to finish but the mynahs are in a hurry. A flock of pigeons watch them, disinterested . I shoo them away as they come near my balcony looking for nesting spots. I am tired of their intrusion and the advantage they take of my hospitality.

I have never seen the red whiskered bulbul taking his bath. He has been visiting me for over a month now, hoping from one branch to the other. He prefers the balcony attached to my bedroom than the one to the living room.The branches of the hibiscus are more comfortable to him than the thorny ones of the rose. Recently he brought a mate with him - possibly to check out nesting spots. They were calling to each other and having private conversations and then they decided to go away. Maybe they didnt like their prospective new home. So, I havent seen him today ..maybe, they are househunting.

I have been house hunting too for a while, looking for a bigger house in the vicinity, but the prices are going high. The husband was quite taken in by a newly contructed house, but I was appalled to find that there was just one balcony there - and that too an apology for one. But the trees around the house and on the road made up for it. However the negotiations came to a standstill.

I have loved my balcony ever since I moved in here seven years ago.  A number of visitors flock here. If they don't visit my balcony, they are normally around my neighbour's terrace. The sunbirds, the tailor birds, the tits, even a stray kingfisher came here for a week. I miss the magpie robin which was quite a regular and the rose ringed parakeets which used to hang up side down from the terrace. The spotted dove is missing now though I have seen him at the park recently. A couple of ashy prinias came here chasing each other once and I have seen some wabblers fly past.

I know its winter when the grey wagtail visits me, shaking its pretty tail, looking lovely in a coat of yellow and grey . I know its summer when the barbet whizzes past me in its coat of green. I am missing the asian koels. They normally bring the roof down, crying out piteously.The garden is quiet now but for the multi coloured butterflies that just troop past. I have just had my third cup of tea from morning, listening to these calls and waiting for the red whiskered bulbul - will he come today ? There, I can hear his call..