It has been drizzling since morning. The normally shy Bharadwaj is calling incessantly, as if it needs to draw attention to something. It is hiding, but its hoo, hoo, hoo is a resonant chant, impossible to ignore.
The outdoor beckons, if only to catch a few raindrops on my open palms, to know that they have descended from the skies, to savour the taste of the universe in them. How simple, yet fascinating it is, this give and take between the earth and the sky, this rising and melting of vapour, this loving exchange, this eternal connection.
I look into the pond surrounding the gazebo. It is still, but for a sharp-tipped leaf that is circling around itself. Unlike other leaves, withered, dried or fresh, some of which are floating on their backs, and others on their flat, ridged bellies, this one stands upright defying gravity. The defiance eludes explanation till I see an itsy-bitsy translucent fry emerge from behind it. It swims away from the leaf and towards it again, kissing it ever so lightly. I can imagine it giggling joyously as the leaf bobs backward and forward. It advances and retreats several times, nudging the leaf till it starts spiralling and then falls on its back, floats away and settles under a large, supine, brown leaf, which has been a mute spectator all along.
A kingfisher sits still on the fence. Its wings are a stunning turquoise, its belly white and its beak a pale yellow streaked with a deep red. I stare at it unabashedly, awestruck by its beauty, and the imagination of its creator. It stares back. I don’t lower my gaze. Birds don’t object to this open, brazen admiration. I would never have dared to gawk at a human being so wantonly, out of fear of being hauled up for bad manners, or invasion of privacy, or worse, stalking. I can’t but think that I’m invading what could be its silent moment with itself, but I fail to avert my gaze. Then, I do the forbidden, the crass act of stealthily pulling out my phone from my bag. This is the scourge that has affected almost all of humanity, and while I have largely been immune to this compulsive urge to trap everything in a photograph, there are moments when I slip. This is one such. As I aim, it takes flight.
I start strolling telling myself that I was rightly rebuffed by the bird. A squirrel, its tail pointing skyward, scampers across to join a flock of pigeons pecking at grains scattered in the compound. A mynah dips its yellow beak into a puddle of water formed by the parked cars being washed. It trusts the water and drinks eagerly. I think of the RO water purifier installed in my kitchen. When was the last time I had cupped my palms together and drunk water straight from a natural source or even a tap? Water has become our enemy. It must go through several processes to become potable. We are sold on this fear. We dread what water will do to our intestines. I envy the mynah. As I walk, I spot a large cluster of bananas on the tree in the compound. A deep purple banana flower blooms at its stem and catches my eye.
As I walk, someone throws a cigarette butt out of the terrace. In an instant, my reverie is broken. I’m furious. I look up to chide the uncivil resident for the insolent act knowing fully well that my search for the culprit is futile. Such acts are done under cover. Worse, I almost step on a banana skin flung carelessly by yet another vandal. The banana will soon become the eater’s body but perhaps all the vitamins in it are incapable of refining his mind. I pick up the banana skin and deposit it in the bin. At least, I tell myself, I didn’t slip on it.
I look up at the clouds to mitigate my anger, but some days are designed to test one’s patience. I almost step on a used condom, flicked casually by an impassioned gladiator, perhaps too spent after his amorous adventure to discard the evidence of his virility in a more socially acceptable manner. A black insect, with yellow horizontal ridges on its body, inspects it, as I step aside. The insect, unimpressed by the trampled remains of exhibited manhood, hurries away. So do I.
I try to focus on the bird calls but the images of the cigarette butt, the banana skin and the condom haunt me. Eyesores defacing a pristine landscape–all reminders of the way we plunder our environment. I sit on the bench in the garden trying to wipe out the images. But, what you resist, persists. As I take a few deep breaths, my anger gives way to momentary resignation. The sun is out. It will soon scorch the trash. It illuminates the edges of the trees, which now have fiery silhouettes. Soon, the neighbourhood will be filled with voices and familiar everyday sounds and the frenzied pace of the business of living. No one has the time to pause or even spot the pollutants on the landscape. Why, who has the time to even notice the landscape?
Life goes on…