Dawn and Dusk


In these Covid times, the words dawn and dusk seem to have taken on a new meaning. Where before they were beautiful words to be found in poems and books, these days they have merely become mechanical cues to pinpoint the transition between days; days that seem to merge into each other.

However, even in these difficult times life does manage to bring some magic into our lives. Enter Dawn and Dusk!!

Dawn and Dusk are two little mynahs that have been visiting one of our dear friend’s home for the last eighteen months.

What began as a tentative entry into the kitchen from the window ledge has now grown into a deep friendship. Initially my friend would leave small pieces of fruit on the kitchen ledge. As they grew comfortable with my friend and his family, the mynahs would walk into the kitchen or living room, following them and awaiting their fruit treats.

Even to this day they visit twice, once at dawn and then again at dusk – to claim their grapes, bananas, dates, apples and cashewnuts. And that’s how they got their names.

My friends tell me that Dawn and Dusk usually come in and remind them if they find that their treats have not been refilled. At such times they wait patiently, without making any noise, seeming to completely understand if my friends are attending phone calls.

Somedays they bring a couple of friends with them, confident that their friends will also be treated with love and care!

What a beautiful friendship indeed! While all of us may not be stepping outdoors as often as we used to, Mother Nature has her own way of keeping us connected with her.

Friendship


It is late in the afternoon, and as I type away on my laptop, a gentle breeze causes my day curtains to billow.

From where I am seated, and through the open balcony doors, I see two mynahs seated on the ledge of the building next to ours.

Initially they are seated on opposite ends of the ledge, their faces turned away from each other. Have they just had a squabble?

Then, after a few minutes, one of them moves closer as if trying to talk to the other mynah. But, no, the second mynah will not have it. She turns away and starts walking away from her friend!  The friend moves closer, and the second mynah walks further away.

I so wish I could hear what they are saying. The first one is definitely trying to reason, but the second mynah is having none of it. She turns her beak up in the air and keeps taking small steps away from her pal.

But the first mynah is one persuasive bird. She does not give up, she keeps talking. Is she apologizing, is she explaining her point of view, is she telling the other mynah that she cares for her and that she will always be her friend despite their silly squabbles?

I sigh and wish that the other mynah would just say something. After a few minutes, the second mynah finally turns around. Yay!

They talk, and seem to sort out their differences. They fly away soon, their petty disagreement totally forgotten and forgiven.

I smile. I am happy. Sometimes all it takes is to put one’s pride aside and talk to the other person to make things right! After all, true friendship is precious and totally worth all this effort.

Mama Oriole


There once lived a beautiful bird couple Mrs & Mr. Golden Oriole. They had met, fallen in love and made their home in a rich tropical jungle that was lush with fruits and vegetation, where the sun played hide and seek with the fronds, where colourful butterflies chased each other all day, and where the beautiful sounds of heavy rainfall were often heard.

After the monsoon season, Mrs. Oriole had three beautiful eggs in her nest, and patiently cared for them and kept them warm. Mr.Oriole was puffed up with pride as a soon-to-be-dad, taking care of the missus and keeping her happy. Mrs.Oriole had many dreams for her three children. She had to be brought out of her reverie quite often!

And soon, there was chirping to be heard from their nest. Mrs.Oriole had now become Mama Oriole, as she would now be known, her own identity subsumed into her role as a mother. From dawn to dusk, the Orioles were busy nurturing and caring for their hatchlings, whom they named Orin, Orion and Oreo.

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

In a few days, as the chicks opened their eyes and got to know their parents and the world, Mama Oriole seemed rather anxious. She did not know if she was imagining it, but could sense that her little Oreo was different from her other two kids. She did not know how, but she knew. She kept a careful watch, her anxiety increasing as the days flew by. Soon, it was time to teach her babies to fly. And that is when she found that her Oreo had a problem with one of his wings, and could not use it as well as his other one.

In just a few days, Orin and Orion were able to fly and behaved just like other siblings, squabbling and fighting and teasing each other. Mama Oriole watched Oreo, who smiled but could not comprehend or interact with his siblings. He could fly, but only short distances. Her heart filled with pain. From then on, her life transformed. She dedicated herself to encouraging and motivating Oreo all she could. She spent extra time teaching him, coaching him and loving him. Her life, as she knew it had changed, as she put her needs, her friends and her social life on the backburner; for she had to raise her Oreo into a confident young bird, who could take on the world despite all his limitations.

On some afternoons, when she needed some time to think, and when Papa Oriole took over, she flew to the mountains, craving some peace and time to dwell on life and all its machinations.

She came back from such sojourns with renewed vigour, determined to do whatever it took to give Oreo a good chance at life. She identified that Oreo could whistle beautiful tunes. She encouraged him to practice, she constantly clapped and cheered and built Oreo’s confidence. She roped in Orin and Oreon to encourage their sibling, and to take him out and have fun with him.

Her day began and ended with Oreo. At night, when the crickets set up their chorus and the predators were on the prowl, and when her Oreo cuddled up to her, Mama Oriole experienced a love like no other. A mom’s love.

She was his mother, and he was her world, and she believed in him and loved him. She would always be there for him, no matter what.

A Ramble…


The evening sun burns with a sudden fervour,

A last burst before it glides away for the day.

The hustle and bustle of a weekend are all around me,

As I go plod, plod, plod on the winding way.

Sweat rivulets flow down my face and neck,

The gentle breeze brings some joyous respite.

The city’s drone slowly dies away,

As I go plod, plod, plod seeking some quiet.

The blue flash of a focussed kingfisher,

And the contortionist routines of the squirrel.

The crisp chatter of two raucous mynas follow,

As I go thud, thud, thud on my ramble.

The rich dark brown soil,

Receiving dried leaves worn and frail.

Ready to absorb and recreate life,

As I go huff, puff, huff up the trail.

The wind swishing through the branches,

A golden apricot poodle bounding up the hill.

A pause, a break to replenish with water,

As I go glug, glug, glug and have my fill.

A bunch of bright red flowers on a branch,

Drooping down as if the tree has overflowed.

A pitstop that brings a smile and some joy,

As I go jog, jog, jog down the winding road.

Today’s workout goals have been met,

But a walk is more than burning a calorie.

There are simple joys to be had at every step,

As I stamp, stamp them into my memory.

The bench


It is 5 pm in the evening, and I head out for a walk. The rain has spent itself, and puddles have formed everywhere. Silver water drops hang precariously on leaves and branches. Some droplets catch the evening sun and sparkle.

I walk down the trail, taking in the scents of flowers, rain-soaked leaves and wet soil. I can hear some birds calling out, but I can’t see them. There are beautiful flowers and buds. There is this group of mynas in front of me, their attention drawn to something in the bushes.

I click some pictures, trying to capture the beauty that I am experiencing. Ants on leaves, star jasmine flowers, buds filled with promise and hope, a flower that has fallen down on the trail – totally unmarred – and dried leaves that make squelching sounds when I walk through them.

It is an idyllic evening, and I stop frequently to observe the plants. And then, at about the midpoint of my walk, I see this – a beautiful wooden bench, surrounded by green foliage.

This bench is my pit stop. I sit and close my eyes, and focus on the sounds of the rustling leaves. I focus on my breath, I take long, deep breaths, and life seems perfect just the way it is.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow seems faraway. I am in the here and the now, and a feeling of peace envelopes me.

Sitting on this bench, I ponder over the mysteries of life and its purpose. I am grateful for this moment that is totally mine, to look within.

The birds are heading home, the plants are settling down for the day, and I leave this beautiful bench, totally rejuvenated.

Clarity


I am in a cab that is stuck in heavy traffic. All around me, drivers are tapping their steering wheels impatiently, while some others are busy on their phones.

My phone’s battery is at a meagre 5%, and with no messages to check or people to call, my gaze wanders to the buildings on either side of the pavement. I crane my neck to see the trees lining the road. The blue sky appears bleached under the glaring sun. The leaves on the trees filter the sun’s light in various patterns, each pattern unique.

Amongst all these trees with leaves is also a wise old tree that is bereft of leaves. A sudden movement on this tree’s branches catches my eye. I realize that it is a bird, a crow.

Picture courtesy – Illustrated by Ann & Ani (image copyrighted)

The crow keeps moving up and down one particular branch. Up, down, pause, up, down, pause…the crow keeps repeating this for sometime.

I wonder what the crow is thinking. Is he worrying about his loved ones? Is he confused about choices that he has to make? Is he testing the tree for its suitability for him to build a nest and start a family?

The crow continues pacing. After a few minutes, he stops, his head clear. He has made up his mind. Soon, he flies away.

This is quite similar to how we humans behave too, especially when we are confused, and have to make choices or have to take firm decisions in our lives.

Sometimes, we require ‘alone time’ in our minds to sift through our thoughts, think through the consequences, process them, and then come to a decision.

Sometimes, we pace up and down our living rooms, or embark on solitary walks, thinking and evaluating.

And always, when we look within, the right answer comes to us, at the right time. It was always there, it just needed us to choose it.

And then comes clarity, and a sense of lightness.

Just like the crow that flew away into the sky. Free now, that the decision had been made.

A stolen moment….


When the Indian Festival season starts, days and nights blend into each other; into a seamless round of parties, dinners and fun. The vibrant hues of the Indian saree light-up the landscape. There are shimmering sequins, and silk, visits to the nail spa and hair salon; and all this while preparing the hundred odd things that one needs for the festival season.

I am no exception, as I flit in and out of the house, draping sarees for every occasion. There is definitely magic in the air, people are happy and in high spirits. There is hope, there is a promise of another wonderful year ahead.

And in all this wonderful excitement, I have just dropped my son to his class, and head to a mall nearby, to run some errands.

I move with purpose, ticking off each item on my list. Somewhere, on those winding shop alleys, fresh coffee is being brewed. I ignore it and carry on with my work.

On the way back, I simply cannot resist. I do a takeaway and walk out of the mall. The mall is located on the waterfront.

I look at the water. There are many kayaks. Many teams are practicing – counting or chanting rhythmically.

I need this moment to myself, to do nothing, just till I finish my coffee. To absorb this peace of watching without acting, just enjoying my coffee and its aroma.

I settle down on the steps near the waterfront. Two sweet mynas are hopping about near me. They look quizzically at me. They are not daunted by my presence. They allow me to take pictures. After a while, they go into the bushes, and start pecking at the soil with their bright yellow beaks.

A beautiful morning – a bright and sunny day full of promise, clouds floating, kayaks gliding on the water, two smart mynas for company and coffee to top it all off.

This moment was mine..just to be, just to let go and to not think.

Soon, it is time to head back and join the main artery of everyday life; back to celebrating the festival season with friends and family – back to the fun and laughter!

Happy Deepavali to you all!

Up in the clouds….


We are up in the hills, on our way to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, also known as the ‘Scotland of the East’ and ‘the abode of clouds’!

The road snakes right and left, as our car makes its way up the hills. As we go higher, we are literally in the clouds. It’s as if the clouds have come down to play a game of hide and seek. Our car slices through these clouds, as they glide past us, busily going about their day.

We see flashes of green, then white, and then green. The sun shines on a glorious, blue sky. The world looks happy and cheerful.

All along the way, we see the locals going about their day, busy with farming and mining. This beauty surrounds them everyday. I feel envious.

We stop now and then at a viewing point; to stretch our limbs and soak-in the beauty all around us. The distant calls of birds can be heard, and the occasional vehicle. Otherwise, there is only a deep silence. There is harmony, there is peace.

At one such viewing point, we sit down to look at the merry clouds and the sedate hills below.

We sit down, each of us wrapped up in our own thoughts, trying to understand this beauty and to relate it to our crazy lives that have so many deadlines.

Here, there are no deadlines, life seems simple and peaceful. We are in no hurry to leave.

There are fresh pineapple stalls along the way, and hundreds of varieties of Indian pickles on sale.

We sink our teeth into the delicious and succulent pineapples, watching the road fade away into the distance.

As we go higher, the clouds envelope us completely, in a welcoming embrace. We stop at the Lake Umiam view point, where trees, mountains and lake have all merged with the clouds.

Brrrr…it is cold. We watch the lake from above, visible on and off. Faraway lights are twinkling through the cloud cover.

There is a mobile tea stall (in the boot of a car), where we slurp cups of hot, masala chai. We walk up and down, exclaiming at everything.

After all, we are not up in the clouds often..!

Shopping, paranthas & peace


My sister and I are out shopping. There is no specific shopping list; we are willing to buy anything that grabs our attention. Read – ‘as many shops as we can visit in one afternoon’.

Our children are with their grandmom, and we don’t feel any guilt. We wave cheery byes to our children, who are oblivious to our departure. They are enjoying junk food, and reveling in the joy of being totally spoiled by their grandmom.

We drive down to one of our favourite malls. We drive each other nuts by trying on hundreds of clothes, doing catwalks for each other; all the while catching up on family gossip, children, motherhood and other silly things that sisters talk about.

We reach a point where our arms hurt from all that exertion. We buy 2% of what we tried, but the satisfaction is enormous.

We need coffee. We need something to eat. And then, we find this small restaurant that has a skylight, and has huge stone slabs and steps that serve as tables and chairs. Multi-coloured cushions languish on various stones. Trees give us company. We order hot aloo paranthas and coffee. As we wait for the food, we soak in this place, this slice of heaven. Where, unbeknowst to ourselves, we’ve stopped talking.

We are immersed in our own thoughts. Life seems so simple and so uncomplicated in this quadrangle. A lazy bird chirps above us. Ants are busily climbing the walls.

Our food arrives. We relish it in silence. We are loathe to leave this peace, but real life beckons. We step out into the world, where people are rushing, vehicles are moving – nobody stops or pauses even for a second.

What’s cooking?


I am heading home from my evening walk. The sky is turning a deep blue. I see the silhouettes of birds flying back to their nests. Many birds are already home. There is a lot of chirping; the birds are obviously catching up with each other, after a long, tiring day.

As I enter our condominium, the street lights switch on. The lights in many homes are coming on too!

My muscles are tired from all that walking, and there is no more ‘brisk’ in my walk.

Picture courtesy – http://www.clipart-library.com

And as I cross from one building to another, the smells of dinner being cooked are everywhere! My stomach growls, my tongue waters.

Warm paranthas are being tossed on the tawa….yumm! Now, I smell cheese; now, mustard sputtering in oil. I can hear a pressure cooker letting off steam.

I make it home, both tired and famished. I only have one thought in my head – FOOD! I take a shower, and rush into the kitchen to warm my dinner.

The first mouthful is divine, and I savour it with eyes closed. I wolf down the rest. I am full. I stretch in contentment. Bliss!