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Watching Birds on the Window

  • WRITER Parni Ray

It was October, and she was home. 

Much had changed since the lockdown last March. But a lot was still up in the air. Friends, family and work still confined, for the most part, to screens. What tomorrow could be like still vague. The initial confusion of the world coming to a standstill had however been managed. Measures had been taken with such gusto that, among other things, leaving home for almost anything had become unnecessary. Almost everything one needed now just came home.

Musing about this she watched her room come alive as she lay in bed – today marked the eighth month of her staying home alone. No longer was her apartment a pit-stop for nightly rest, it was now an extension of her and she of it. Through the curtained windows light was slipping in and rippling across the walls and ceiling like the sun on a swimming pool. She was looking at the gently moving shadows and unbraiding the sounds emerging from the jackfruit tree outside. Dry leaves, squirrels, the occasional soft thump of a fruit falling to the ground. And birds. 

She often watched birds while in the mountains, forests, next to the sea, but almost never in the city. ‘The city is losing birds’, someone always said at the dinner parties she attended. It was true, the city is losing birds. Fewer and fewer of them come here even during the winter. ‘The city is losing birds’, she often repeated to others. Perhaps in so doing she had come to believe that the birds had disappeared already. 

And now here they were on the ledge of her south east window, snacking on the tiny chunks of fruit she had put out the night before. It had taken her a while to cajole them to her. For months she only heard them from afar. But, determined to catch their attention, she set up her makeshift birdfeeder with seeds and fruits. To make sure she didn’t miss the chance to spot them she had pulled up an armchair next to the window. On the side table next to it  she had put up a plant and a vase with birds on it. 

The Flock of Birds’ Vase – A throng of birds occupy the curved walls of this stoneware vase. Breaking the confinement of indoor life it brings a slice of the outdoors inside. 

Yet, not one bird had come. Not for weeks. Then one day as she sat drinking tea on the chair the first Bulbul had flitted in. Dancing around the ledge it had flashed the red under its tail (like a petticoat, she had thought). Maybe it had invited the others. 

Now that she knew they would come she peeked at them as she went about her day – while lathering up the dishes or whisking eggs. She watched them swing on the telephone lines as she folded clothes or drank tea and then again while they leapt from branch to branch or chittered noisily as she arranged flowers or procrastinated at her computer. 

Bulbul, crows, tailor birds, sparrows, coucals, doves, babblers, mynas, drongos. 

She took pictures sometimes, Googled names. Did names matter? She wondered.  

Morning, afternoon and sunset she came to the window to see what they were doing now. The sparrows with the black stains on their chest and dark eyeliner were her favourite. How staccato their movements were, she thought, like a clockwork toy. 

She watched them for hours even though she didn’t know what they were doing exactly, people on the internet had advised her to keep a journal, to note movements, habits. But she hadn’t written anything in the notebook she had covered and labeled. 

What she loved most about birds is how little they did besides hanging around happily.  

As she watched them be happy doing nothing, for a bit she happily did nothing too.