I was in the gym the other day and something about the whole experience felt a bit different. Not because I was exercising after what seemed to be a century but because of the way the music inside my head was getting louder than the cacophony in the gym. And I was the only woman inside; thus establishing that the skill of disturbing the aural eco-system doesn’t lie entirely with the “fringed”- pardon the pun!
The 40-going on 20 man on the treadmill next to mine had decided to give a full-throated voice over to Arijit Singh’s soulful rendition of Kabiraa. And just to drown his voice, and my grief, at this cold-blooded murder of sur and taal, I turned up the volume inside my head. By rerouting the input pathway, I felt more connected with the Universe now. My treadmill faced a glass window, which gave a panoramic view of a small verandah with a few trees tucked away in quiet corners. As I was walking, sprinting, spluttering, gasping and then crawling in intervals, I noticed a tiny sparrow (it could be anything between a warbler and a peacock- I couldn’t tell the difference to save my life) came and perched on the branch of a tree, positioned at 10 o’clock. Nothing great about a bird coming and parking itself on a branch, you’d say. My sentiments, exactly.
Experiences, they say, come in the briefest moments. And they come unannounced.Like the I.T. guys. As I looked at that little creature very casually, I was hooked by this crazy thought that the bird was staring at me. No, I wasn’t working out after a heavy lunch, so no chance of delirium caused by sudden spikes in blood sugar. I averted my gaze and looked back at it. Gawd, for sure the bird was staring at me. This was a bit crazy. Averted my gaze again. And looked back again. Sure as hell, the tiny round eyes were fixed on me. That sideways glance was so obviously and purposefully directed at me. It also seemed, however, that the little winglet was trying to keep it as discreet and polite as possible. Was it the bright colours that I was wearing? Was it the way my hair looked (prospective birdy home)? Was it my boobs/ was it male? WAS IT/ Wait…yes, that was it! It struck me then.
The bird was most certainly a male member of the species. And no, it wasn’t my body parts that had his attention. It was perched a few feet away from an untidy, scruffy nest tucked away in a nook among the branches of the tree. I could see it when I looked around for evidence for my theory. Yessir! The daddy was on smart vigil. He needed to go to his nest but did not want to do it as I was looking at it and his irresponsible flight could have given away the secret location of his home, and compromise the safety of his family! He needed me to look away, not just divert my gaze, in order to ensure that nobody watches him fly home in a covert operation!!! I smiled. You sweet, little soldier-on-the-guard, I thought. And as visibly loudly as I could; I turned my neck a decent 90 degrees to my right, my peripheral vision trying to keep him in its radar. Twenty seconds was all it took. I looked back and lo, there he was - lovingly straddling his little ones, wings spanning the nest as if to say: Don’t worry I got you covered. I continued to watch – smiling at the tender joys of Nature, as well as on the satisfaction of a validated thought. Oblivious of my immediate neighbourhood, I must’ve uttered some deep-throated groans, rather unknowingly, sending wrong signals to the aspiring singer. My foul-voiced neighbour on the treadmill had started to settle his hair, rather coquettishly, in the glass as he saw me smiling (probably thinking that I was smiling at his reflection in the glass). The bird was oblivious of its stealthy observer now, completely immersed in its task of feeding(and smothering) the little ones.
I simply had to stop my sprint, pick up the phone camera and click a few pictures; both for my satisfaction and my neighbour’s clarity of thought. The pictures didn’t come out too clean but the moment stayed with me enough to motivate me to write about it.
What I’m still struggling to understand is: what is it that made me think instantaneously that the watchful, protective bird was most certainly a father to the nestlings and not the mother. Was it heart-warming to tell myself that daddies are there to protect? I am still wondering. Any answers, anybody? The Arabic evil-eye charm on the wall seems to be watching over everything like a matriarch. Stereotypes? I wouldn't say so...