I live in a gated community in the heart of Cochin city. It is a small locality, with just nine houses. Barely a kilometer away from the hustle and bustle of South Railway Station, our enclave is a haven of peace and quiet. Far away from the madding crowd, as it were. The sound and din of the city traffic do not bother us; there is just one high rise apartments nearby, and the closest supermarket is more than a kilometer away. There are a couple of old fashioned provision stores in the vicinity selling milk, bread, eggs and all the usual items one would see in a store in a village.A corporation truck that comes to clear the waste or the bus that wants to save time disrupts the traffic occasionally; otherwise the road is mostly filled with usual cars,bikes and pedestrians engaged in quotidian chores. As I leave my house for work each day, I see almost the same faces – some going to school, others picking up milk and daily provisions at the corner store, few senior citizens diligently taking their morning constitutional, and some regulars returning home after their daily visit to the local temples.
All in all, an oasis of serenity. A sort of bucolic retreat in the middle of a crowded city.
Naturally, the area shouldn’t be green and verdant, but it is thanks to the disputed property that belongs to a neighbor. The area is thick with foliage and trees, and the sights and sounds of a forgotten childhood that assail our senses constantly. Bumblebees and dragonflies fly around impudently during the day, and evenings resonate with the tireless chirping of crickets and the sonorous croak of bull frogs. Early mornings are simply beautiful . There is barely a hint of magenta at first, and then as the sky is suffused by a beautiful pink blush, the day awakens to the refreshing music of the birds. There is a lot of greenery where we live – several coconut palms and temple trees, a couple of majestic raintrees, a konna , a weeping willow, and a number of divi divi trees that provide a canopy of lush green along the driveway; and a profusion of flowering plants and bushes that serve as cover and sustenance to a variety of songbirds. Sparrows, swallows, koels, thrushes, larks , kingfishers – are in abundance, and they all appear simply joyous to be alive!
More than a month ago, I noticed a pair of red whiskered bulbuls busying themselves around a decorative palm near my front porch. Now these birds are easy to identify. They have a distinctive crest, and a fan tail. Their body is generally a dull brown, with a white underbelly, a red face patch and a colorful red vent near the tail. The birds typically feed on fruits and small insects. They are normally not shy of humans, and perch conspicuously on trees and rooftops, sending out a sharp three or four note call. Most mornings, I wake up to the music of their scolding chatter.
I could see that what these two birds were doing was part of their mating ritual. They were getting ready to breed. The pair worked tirelessly, and soon enough, had succeeded in creating a small cup shaped nest with twigs, dried leaves, grass, roots and strips of bark. The overhanging palm fronds ensured that the nest was quietly tucked away from the roving eyes of predators. And within a couple of days, there were two pale mauve, speckled eggs resting inside the nest.
Then followed a period of incubation. One bird would sit on the clutch of eggs, while the other would forage for food, and bring it back to its partner. Everyday, even before I had my morning cup of coffee, I would check on their status. I also became a vicarious parent of sorts, watching and observing my avian friends, waiting in anticipation for the eggs to hatch. After about fortnight of waiting, I found that the alchemy of creation had taken place. Th eggs had hatched, and I could see two tiny naked heads, eyes closed, jostling comfortably in the nest. . Both parents were close by, perched on trees, zealously guarding their off spring against any intruders, the air filled with the sharp notes of their constant warbling. Were they warning me to back off, I wondered. After a few days, I saw that the baby birds had opened their eyes, Of course, they were still helpless and depended on their parents to feed them.
And then, one morning, after about three weeks, I observed that the nest was empty. I realized that my young wards had fledged. They were ready to stretch their wings and soar forth into the world. The cycle of life was complete. The parents had done their job, and it was now time for the young ones to create their own music. I look around, and I can see the proud parents perched impudently on the rooftop opposite my house, making joyous music.
I am reminded of an old Chinese saying : A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.