Though my neighbour Shyam and I live in a large metropolis we are one of the few lucky ones to have our residences in a sylvan locality aptly named Aspiran Garden.
Huge trees grow on either side of our colony roads. These trees are the Copperpod trees also known as the yellow-flamboyant. The trees throw a canopy of shade on our houses and during some months of the year, bloom in all their glory . The strewn flowers completely cover our roads as if they had been deluged by golden showers.
Our trees are also home to many birds which awaken us early every morning with their choruses. The Indian Koel which shouts cuckoo in a plaintive voice as if soulfully calling out to a lost lover. The pigeons roosting in apartment crevices, the omnipresent ravens and some parrots too . The rare addition is a few woodpeckers whose pecking sounds can be heard consistently, making us marvel at their perseverance.
Being a lover of nature, Shyam watched as a few pairs of woodpeckers inspected the trees near his house. One pair selected the huge old tree right opposite his house. From early April, the mated pair started excavating the tree trunk, bored a hole and made a cozy nest for themselves. It was a tremendous and meticulous job by his feathered friends.
By May, the eggs had hatched and Shyam could hear the young ones chirping in their cubbyhole while the adults took seriously to parenting which mainly involved feeding the hungry fledglings. It was a beautiful sight seeing the hovering birds flying about, neither minding the watchman who sat near the tree nor the cars that plied that way. They were not bothered by the early morning walkers nor kids on tricycles.
They lived their life , free as a … ummm… bird.
Then the lockdown happened.
Shyam was at home because of the quarantine. Though he could watch his adopted pets from afar, he could not venture to peep into their home as his curiosity prompted him to. The apartment complex which housed the woodpecker’s tree had Covid 19 patients and was out of bounds to all.
Shyam could only spy on them from his house a few metres away.
Last Sunday, around mid morning, the birds fell ominously silent. Not a tweet or a twitter out of them The parents were not to be seen and the juvenile birds also seemed dead to the world.
What happened? Did they fall prey to some wild cat or had they moved away? But the chicks had not learnt to fly yet.
Shyam grew restless. He had come to love the birds and wanted nothing unfortunate to happen to them.
Then he noticed that the colony had grown dark. The solar eclipse was making the world grey and unreal. The residents of the colony were all indoors. The birds had followed suit.
Did they fear the eclipse?
Shyam realized with a surge of joy that the birds had thought that it was dusk and they had come home to the safety of their homes as they do every evening. That was the simple answer.
The dear little birds had mistaken the eclipse induced dullness to night time.
They had come home to roost.
When the eclipse was done and gone and the world became bright again the people began to stir in their homes. Then the birds came out. Bright and chirpy as they did every morning.
The parent birds began feeding their chicks in a frenzy of activity and vocalization as if making up for lost time.
The area was filled with their happy bonhomie noises.
Shyam was happy.
God is in heaven and all is right with the world.
PS: Now Shyam is waiting to see his babies soar.